Sports

Marquardt patiently waiting for his chance

Thursday, July 01, 2010   by: Joey Butkevich

Matt Marquardt, seen here in his AHL Providence Bruins colors, has realized the road to the NHL can be a bumpy one. Photo courtesy www.providencebruins.com.

Recently, Baytoday had the opportunity to sit down with Matt Marquardt, and talk about his trek into Professional Hockey.

The North Bay native is a perfect example of what perseverance, hard work and determination can do for an individual.

Unlike most high-end talented players, Marquardt never played 'AAA' hockey growing up, being passed over several times for other players.

The West Ferris Minor Hockey graduate never really had a sniff of 'AAA' hockey in North Bay, only a brief call-up to the North Bay Trappers, where he displayed his unquestionable talent.

“Being cut by the Athletics was very frustrating, I went to school with most of the guys," says Marquardt.

"But, when I was cut by the Trappers, it crushed me! I worked my butt off, working with Larry Sheppard. I quit hockey, until my dad decided to come on and coach my Midget AA team, so I decided to return and play.”

Upon his graduation from West Ferris Minor Hockey, the hard shooting left winger took his skills to Huntsville, as an rookie invitee. After impressing in the rookie camp, Matt was offered to return to the main camp with the Huntsville Wildcats (Now, Huntville Otters). However, the Huntsville club folded but the CJHL Brockville Braves decided to give the local product a chance.

After spending two seasons with the Braves, Marquardt garnered several honours including; Rookie of the Year, MVP- Rookie All-Star game, 1st Team All-Rookie and beating now Philadelphia Flyer Claude Giroux for the rookie scoring title. One glance at the several accolades, one could see a talented power forward on the verge of moving to the next level.

“In my second season, I was in bad shape and wasn't playing a whole lot, so I dedicated myself to working out hard,” says Marquardt.

“My whole life, I always heard people refer to me as 'chubby'. So I didn't want that to be used as my tag line, anymore."

After the Rookie All-Star game during the 2004-05 season, the Marquardt family was approached by the well respect Larry Kelly. Kelly soon became the family adviser for the family, and soon began to receive several offers from NCAA Division 1 schools, but the family elected to go the Major Junior route. Though Marquardt was courted by several well respected OHL teams, including the Kitchener Rangers, the highly likable teenager chose the Moncton Wildcats organization to carry on his playing time.

With the decision to take the Major Junior hockey route set, Marquardt's decision came down to wanting to play for an organization that firmly believed in players being a student/athlete's. Along with a great organization, came a great coach, Ted Nolan was at the helm of the Wildcat's organization. The once Jack Adam's winner was an influential figure in Matt's hockey career, notably teaching the young man how to become a 'team player'.

“Anytime you get to play for a man who knows how to get there, or anytime you get to play for a Jack Adam's award winner, it's an honour,” states Marquardt.

Along with teaching his players how to play a 'team first' approach, Nolan taught Marquardt the importance in being a 'role player' for a team. Although Marquardt had undoubtedly shown his offensive capabilities prior to making the jump into Major Junior hockey, the Wildcat's coach showed the left wing - power forward a different way to play hockey. Marquardt was now a role player who was used to dig pucks out down-low, and contribute offensively where he could.

“He (Nolan) taught me how to play my game as a role player, who can contribute offensively,” said Marquardt.

The ability to play hockey away from home surely accelerated the local products maturity, as a 16-year-old living away from home, he was now responsible for taking care of everything from cooking to cleaning.

“I was very grateful to learn life lessons earlier than normal. Compared to kids who only learn when they go to college,” claims Marquardt about the experience of living with older roommates.

Having scored 16 goals in his rookie season with the Wildcat's in the QMJHL, the talented winger was able to win his first significant championship. In the 2005-06, Marquardt (nicknamed “Mags”) and his teammates were finalists at the Memorial Cup. The high profile event was a coming out party, of sorts, for the humble local product. The local mustered 8 points in 20 games, he played a tenacious power game which allowed him to score a game winner in the Memorial Cup. Following up his championship campaign, “Mags” was able to collect back to back 40+ goal seasons with both the Wildcats and Baie Comeau Drakkar respectively.

After breaking out with successful offensive campaigns in the QMJHL, Marquardt entered the 2006 NHL draft. Being drafted into the NHL has unquestionably been the highlight of Marquardt's young career, thus far. The power forward was a 2006 7th round draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and since then has gone on to play for both the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers organizations. Although he admits being drafted was a career highlight, the level-headed prospect realizes being drafted was only the first step.

Recently completing his third professional season, the rugged winger has found a spot in the Oilers organization with the Springfield Falcons in the AHL. The biggest difference Matt found, was he no longer was playing against players his age or younger, he was now facing the challenge of playing men. Coming in as a 21-year-old rookie, Matt now faced the challenge of finding something every professional athlete try's to concur, consistency.

“I learnt how to conduct myself as a pro. Also, you learn how guys bring it to the table every night,” states Marquardt.

“I tried to be a sponge and take everything in that both my teammates and coaches showed me.”

Although the 2010 trade deadline brought the budding power forward a new lease on life, Marquardt finished his season the ECHL where he was afforded more playing time and a long play-off run. The humbled forward says he had a lot of talks with the Boston organization prior to the trade, and says felt the window was closing on being able to prove himself as a professional.

“You have a 3 year window to show you want to stick with the club,” says the Springfield Falcon forward.

“I just felt like I would have a better chance developing elsewhere. Boston was an unbelievable organization, and they were fair in letting me move and have a chance to succeed.”

Now, Marquardt feels blessed to be part of a historical organization, and cannot wait to show the Oilers that they did not make a mistake in taking a chance on a tireless worker. Most individuals his age are finishing up college/university, but the hard working professional is working endlessly to get himself in the best shape possible this summer. The endless training regiment is proof of the sacrifices this skilled forward is making to separate himself from his competition. In the last year of his current contract, “Mags” is hungry for a spot, and knows the organization will give him a hard look in training camp. With renewed confidence from a long play-off run with the Stockton Thunder in the ECHL, the left shooting winger in eagerly chomping at the bit to get started again.






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