Matt Marquardt sees a future in coaching when it comes time to hang up his skates, but he believes he still has a lot of legs left and there are plenty more goals in his twig.
His role this season in the United Kingdom’s top league will allow him to do both.
Marquardt, 31, signed Tuesday as a player-assistant coach with the Kitmart Dundee Stars, a club based in Dundee, Scotland, that competes in the Elite Ice Hockey League. It will be his third season in the league, having spent last year in England with the Sheffield Steelers, following a 2016-17 stint with the Coventry Blaze.
On top of his duties as a go-to power forward on an up-and-coming club, the six-foot-two, 225-pound winger will assist Stars coach and general manager Omar Pacha.
“As a player-assistant, Matt will help in various ways and will gain experience with the role,” Pacha said in an interview posted on the team’s website. “He is a great club ambassador and I am convinced the fans will love him. In the first few weeks, Matt will focus more on the ice as he will be an integral part of our team. However, as the season goes on, he will have more responsibilities in the coaching aspect.”
Marquardt, who came up through North Bay’s minor hockey system and was drafted by the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets in 2006, led the Steelers last season with 22 goals in 53 games. A year earlier, he put up 13 goals and 35 points in 53 games in his first EIHL season.
His first tour in England in 2016-17 also enabled him to earn a degree in Sports Management from Coventry University, a degree he planned on utilizing this season when searching for a new gig.
The former Ecole secondaire Catholique Algonquin student has always taken an interest in the business side of hockey, having served as his own agent for the past five off-seasons. Finding a place where he could contribute on the ice while also lending a hand off the ice was a factor in drawing him to Dundee, which finished with a 22-30-4 record last season, 10th place in the 12-team league.
“There’s a lot of opportunity in Dundee, in that, they have a pretty nice rink, but it’s a bit untapped as far as doing some marketing and getting more fans in the building and that’s basically what I studied in school,” Marquardt told BayToday.ca on Tuesday. “I was presented an opportunity to be a player-assistant coach and I’m a player first, obviously – I still feel I can contribute and be a scoring threat in that league – but it’s an opportunity to learn some of the things that go on behind the scenes, even if it’s the small tasks like cutting video clips.
“Coaching and mentoring is something I’ve always really responded well to and it’s something I’d like to do post-hockey, so I thought it was a good opportunity to continue playing and go to an organization on the rise.”
Having captured a QMJHL championship in junior and skated in a Memorial Cup with the Moncton Wildcats and later capturing an ECHL Kelly Cup championship as the top goal-scorer on the 2011-12 Florida Everblades, Marquardt sees an opportunity to mentor some younger players and help establish a winning culture in Dundee.
“To come to an organization like Dundee, where they have an up-and-coming coach and they are looking to build a brand, and the league is getting bigger and better every year … that was a big attraction for me in trying to find my next place to play,” he said. “When I think about life after hockey, I can’t help but think of coaching. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s a role I’ve played the last four or five years now, as far as being an extension of the coaching staff and being in that leadership role.
“I’m going there to play hockey and make an impact on the ice, but also to give the coach a hand and anywhere I can learn some things along the way, it can only benefit me going forward.”
Marquardt scored 100 goals in three seasons of major junior before playing five seasons and more than 260 games in the AHL during his eight years of minor pro in North America. Taking on a player-assistant coach role may seem very Reggie Dunlop-like in that the end may be near, but the numbers are still Ned Braden-like -- last year was Marquardt’s fourth 20-goal season as a pro and he still feels there is a lot more to give on the ice before hanging up the blades.
“I still feel great,” said Marquardt, who has been skating this summer with some Nipissing Lakers players and with a group organized by fellow European pro Russ Moyer. “You learn a little more every year and I have a feel for the league now after two years.
“I’ve always said I’d like to play until the wheels fall off, but at the same time, I don’t want to stick around to see too much of a decline, so I can’t really pinpoint a certain number of years for how long I’ll play. With getting an education, that kind of gives you more of a peace of mind to enjoy the time you have playing, because if something does come up, it makes it a bit easier to transition out.”