The first image I can recall of Matt Duchene was when the Tampa Bay Lightning selected Victor Hedman second overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Television producers of these events love getting the reactions of the players being passed over, so immediately the camera shot over the consensus No. 2 forward in the draft -- a young Duchene sitting with his family in a brand-new suit. Normally, these cameras show a young player becoming increasingly nervous or uncomfortable; but Duchene, realizing he could then be selected by his childhood favorite Colorado Avalanche at No. 3, reacted with an exuberant fist pump. Even before he was officially a part of the team, he would capture the hearts of an entire fan base.
The next image that comes to mind occurred around his first training camp. I want to say it was a photo of him signing his entry-level deal, but it very well could have been a different situation. What struck me about the picture, that I still remember today, was not anything Duchene was doing necessarily, but his choice of clothing: a Colorado Rockies hat. Now, many of you may dismiss this as insignificant (or even offended he was acknowledging baseball altogether), but what I saw from the 18-year old who had yet to play his first NHL game was an impressive amount of media savvy. He knew he was going to be photographed and went out of his way to wear something quintessentially Denver. The rookie was ingratiating himself to a sports community he hoped would embrace his professional career for years to come. It said, "Hey, look! I care about what you care about. I want to be here too!"
* * *
Duchene is an imminently relatable figure.
He's just as excited after scoring a goal as we are watching it in the stands. He's just as frustrated after a tough loss in post-game presser as we are stomping about our living room. When he looks into the camera and says, "We have to be better," you believe him. And how many Avalanche fans have make serious monetary commitments, between tickets purchases and cable packages, to watch their favorite hockey team? Well, Duchene signing a discounted 5-year contract extension ("Wearing a T-shirt with the Colorado state flag symbol on the front and a hat advertising Vail...") made a serious commitment last offseason to play not just hockey, but for these specific fans. He didn't hold out for a large portion of a season, he didn't have agents and family advocating his perceived worth on social media, and he didn't leverage the media into forcing a trade. Playing for the Colorado Avalanche is as important to Matt Duchene as playing in the NHL, and he took the necessary steps to stay here for the foreseeable future. As a professional, he's certainly entitled to negotiate his services however he'd like, but Duchene wanted to be here, and fans recognize that.
* * *
Matt hasn't been shy about how hard he's been working in his new home gym in Haliburton, Ontario this offseason. As he begins preparations to head back to Denver for training camp in a couple of weeks, he posts one more video on Instagram today. "Hey, guys," he begins, standing in front of a large Colorado state flag. "I want to show you where I've been working out this summer." The video then pans across a large basement room adorned in burgundy, blue, and gray paint, as well as countless photos of Avalanche players and other team memorabilia.
Would you expect any different?