Whether it was her peeking through praying hands with watery eyes or whether it was her jumping in uncontrollable excitement, we all shared in the pure joy that Ema Matthews was experiencing. She knew her son was special, all children are, but what Auston Matthews did Wednesday night will be remembered by many, many people for a very, very long time. Let’s be honest, we knew when the Leafs won the draft lottery, they would get a skilled player. By the time Matthews was drafted, we knew that he was more than that. Through the World Championships and then the World Cup of Hockey we knew he would be an impact player in the NHL.
But we didn’t know this.
We didn’t know he would score his first goal on only his third shift. We just hoped he would get a goal in his very first game, because that in itself, would be special. How embarrassing it feels now to have set the bar so low, because shortly thereafter he took the puck, dipsey-doodled through 3 Ottawa players; lost the puck and then stole it back from Eric Karlsson. He did all that before calmly walking in alone and scoring the second goal of his career, in the very first period of the very first game of said career. Stunning. Thankfully for us all, the period came to an end as we needed those precious moments to finally rest our eyes. There was no chance that any of us were going to blink, let alone change the channel. This was must-see TV and it actually involved the Leafs… go figure! As fans, Matthews got us so riled up that those dangerous thoughts begin to enter our heads. Could he get the hat trick? I mean, that would be super special wouldn’t it? He still had two more periods, it certainly was possible. I prayed, “Lord, please don’t tell me I just jinxed him just by thinking of it.” Matthews was kind enough to respond just 1:25 into the second period. A hat-trick. Do we now dare to dream higher? Well, we wouldn’t, but he would. His 4th goal to end the second period stunned us all into silence and then we exploded in incomprehensible giddiness.
What words are good enough to put into historical perspective what Auston Matthews had just accomplished? What words could there possibly be to describe how exciting the next decade is going to be for us with Matthews leading the Leafs? Honestly I can’t think of any, but what I can speak to is the one thing Auston Matthews has provided us. Belief. At the start of the third period, we all believed he could score a 5th goal. Whether he would or not, didn’t really matter, we simply believed that he could. We believe a lot more today than we did before that the Stanley Cup will come to Toronto one day soon. It certainly will take a number of years, but it isn’t as far-fetched or crazy to think so. The 19 year-old phenom from Arizona has made me a believer not only because of how he dazzled on the ice, but by how he carried himself off of it. In his post-game interview, he was humble, gracious and took full responsibility for the team loss. He acknowledged it was his mistake that led to Ottawa’s OT goal. His brief interview showed how he puts the team above himself and that as phenomenal as he was, he still believed he could improve. This is the behaviour I wish that my son’s and I could emulate and I am thankful that they will grow up with an example like Auston Matthews close by.
Wow! What a night.@AM34 congrats bud!
— Max Domi (@max_domi) October 13, 2016
I bet you are all thinking that I should slow down because it was only one game. That maybe, just maybe, I am putting too much pressure on one young man. He can’t possibly change the entire fortunes of one team. You are correct, I won’t put that much pressure on #34, instead I am going to put on even more. Lots more. Auston Matthews not only has the ability to raise the Maple Leafs into prominence, he could very well help the raise the entire NHL. In fact, he already has.
It's everywhere: John Gibbons began his office interview session today with media by asking about Auston Matthews.
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) October 13, 2016
For a couple of hours on Wednesday night, Auston Matthews and an inconsequential hockey game between two Canadian cities was actually the number one story on espn.com. This was during NFL and College Football seasons, not to mention the MLB playoffs. It was also the #1 North American trend on Twitter as well. So because of all this excitement that the Matthews has generated, NBC has announced that it is picking up the Saturday Night hockey game between the Boston Bruins and Auston Matthews’ Toronto Maple Leafs. (Side Note: It’s OK to already call it his team; they’ll make it official next year when they announce him as the captain anyway) Everyone, you see, is beginning to take notice of the boy who chose the path (playing in the Swiss league) less travelled by. If the NHL and the NHLPA can get together and start to market individual stars as well as the NBA has, then the league and its players can reach unimaginable financial heights. The timing couldn’t be any better as there are a significant number of young American superstar talents that could easily convert more and more people into fans of hockey. Can you imagine 4 years down the road how good the US/Canada matches will be when Jack Eichal, Johnny Gaudreau, Dylan Larkin have grown into superstars of their own? With Auston Matthews leading the US and Conner McDavid leading Canada, it will be competitive, fierce and will have an entire continent captivated. We are on the verge of a new era in USA hockey and a new era for all NHL owners, players and fans. At the centre of it all is #34, Auston Matthews.
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