I'm not a big fan of the popular hero types when it comes to my jersey selections or in my mind, my "favorite" player. I like the foundation players. I like the grit. I like the heart and soul in the lockeroom guy. The arena may be full of Forsberg, Roy and Blake jerseys but I have a special place in my fanatical heart for Foote, Yelle and Lappy. Thus, the quandary of this new Avalanche generation. An O'Reilly jersey is a great choice. Maybe Stewart or even McLeod deserve the honorific of gracing my manly shoulders?
Of course, there's always the Golden Child, Matt Duchene. That's waaaaay too obvious though. I mean, he's getting all kinds of ink. He's making great money and in three years time he's going to be making my entire lifetime retirement savings in a single year. What if he turns in to Alexi Yashin or some horrible pretencious jerk that "big leagues" all those
professional autograph sellers kids looking for a signature when exiting Family sports in his big black Escalade (seriously, every NHL player is rocking those oversized SUVs)? I can't risk my hard earned cash to buy a jersey of a 19 year old punk who's going to punch a cab driver because he feels entitled.
With that said, Matt Duchene is beginning to earn that coveted spot in my heart as a true, die hard fan. His play on the ice speaks for itself. His talent and potential are in plain view for all to see, even the most neophyte of hockey fans in the building can feel the electricity in his game. But that's not what sells me. I want to be proud of my favorite players. Joe Sakic was like fan Nirvana for us. He's not only the best player on the ice but he's an honest to God good dude off the ice. Matt Duchene is making me a believer.
The first hints came on draft day. In what I can imagine was only a surreal and overwhelming experience Duchene notices an Avs fan in the crowd on his way back to the reception area to meet family, friends etc... He stops mid stride and tells the entorague to "hold on, it's an Avs fan" to give the guy his first official Avalanche autograph. Later, in some behind the scenes video footage his father comments to Matt, (I'm paraphrasing...) "The Avs got someone with pride...who's proud of the symbol [when he points at the Avalanche logo on his sweater]" Matt responds with "Yeah for sure". Duchene was only four years old when the Avalanche started playing hockey in Denver. Some haters still think of the Avs as some bandwagon flash in the pan. Matt Duchene is a lifelong fan, literally.
So far he's solid gold in the media. Be it the uncomfortably close Pierre Mcguire pre draft interviews, One on One Altitude special, Avalanche All
Duchene Access or the numerous between period interviews during games. He's been interesting and professional. He's not too high or too low after wins or loses which is a true veteran move. He's prone to his share of hockey cliche's but he's not a walking Canadian hockey cliche like a lot of guys. He's loose enough to balance a golf ball off the back of his neck, toss hockey pucks up to the scoreboard and play a guitar on stage. He's confident enough to wear white skates and admit he's got two Miley Cyrus CDs in albums in his collection. He likes to fish. I trust a man who likes to fish.
A lot of the Avalanche guys packed for a direct trip to Mexico after the LA Kings game for the Olympic break. I don't blame them at all, it's what I would have done. Frankly, they deserve it. Anyway, most of you know that Duchene headed up north to help out his high school hockey team at practice and ride the bus to a game and help out there. What you may not know is that Duchene has a secret. No, it's not hitting on hot Seniors at his old high school which is frankly where I would have bee-lined. No, Matt Duchene did some meet and greet back in Haliburton and sold some merchandise. Then, that greedy son of a gun went and donated 100% of the proceeds to Sick Children's Hospital in Toronto in the name of Dawson Hamilton.
The story is here.
The events are all free of charge, says Chaulk, but they come with a poignant proviso: there will be a donation jar available, and visitors will be able to give whatever they can to the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto in memory of young Dawson Hamilton, who lost his battle with chronic myeloid leukemia on Jan. 10, just 13 days before his 10th birthday.
A percentage of Source for Sports sales will also be directed to the Sick Kids Hospital, a place where Dawson was able to find considerable and achingly kind respite from the many storms that dominated his life from the age of five.
Matt was in attendance at Dawson's funeral and he was also there for young Dawson during numerous fundraisers and sporting events. Many times Dawson was in attendance to watch Matt when he toiled splendidly with the OHL's Brampton Battalion.
Dawson was also there for Matt's professional debut in Toronto when the Avs went up against the Leafs back in November.
His death hit Matt like a hammer. So Chaulk says that Matt stressed to his dad that it's very important that people know that there will be a special spot at the autograph venues to give to Toronto Sick Kids.
Later, in a follow-up story after his visit:
Understand that despite those gentle protestations, last Tuesday Duchene showed his true commitment to this community. All proceeds from the autograph sessions last Tuesday in Haliburton, last Thursday in Minden, and on Sunday in Wilberforce went to the Sick Children's Hospital in Toronto. The funds donated are to be submitted in the name of Dawson Hamilton, Duchene's young friend, who for five of his nine years spent a great deal of his time on the cancer ward of the Sick Kids battling, in vain, against the cancer which finally took his life last December just a week before his 10th birthday.
He got permission from the Avalanche to leave the team to attend Dawson's funeral in Minden.
So, the secret is Matt Duchene cared deeply for a 9 year old kid that was dealt a horrible set of cards. So much in fact that Matt left the team in the middle of a December road trip to attend his service. I can't find this reported anywhere but his local paper and that's probably because that's the whole point. Duchene appears to be a kid with an unusual sense of priorities. He appears by all outside appearances to be a guy that loves hockey, music, fishing, his community and family. Oh, and some 9 year old kid that looked up to him.
Which jersey does an anti-populist jersey snob like myself invest in with an arena that's sure to be filled with number 9s? My son turns nine years old this year, so for many reasons I say, "Make mine Duchene".