ALUMNI SHINE AT PREDS CAMP
Date: Jun 28, 2019
By BROOKS BRATTEN
It didn’t take Mat Myers long to command the attention of the teenage hockey players in the room.
“Clap once if you can hear me,” he said. The teens responded in kind.
“Clap once if you can hear me,” he repeated. Same result.
“Clap twice if you can see me,” he said. Two claps were reciprocated this time.
“Liars,” he then added, wryly. The room instantly filled with laughter. Just like that, he had everyone on his side.
He’s become quite good at that over the years. Once you meet Myers, it doesn’t take long until you’re on his side.
He was right to call his new friends “liars” too – there’s no way everyone in the room at the Elite Edge Hockey Showcase could have seen him even though he was front in center.
Myers, who currently holds the title of Head Video Coach for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres – and was formerly an assistant video coach with the Nashville Predators – also lives with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism.
And the key word there is “lives,” because he certainly does.
He plays sports, drives a car and goes to work just like millions of Americans each day. His job just happens to be one of 31 in the world at the game’s top level, a position plenty of other hopefuls envy.
Born near Manchester, New Hampshire, Myers has always loved the game of hockey. His father coached, his siblings played, and he played, too, but he could only take things so far on the ice. After “retiring” at the age of 12, Myers had to do some thinking as he became a teenager, right around the same age as many of the participants giving him their full attention.
“The moment where I started to realize I was different was when my friends were growing and I wasn’t,” Myers recalled. “It was a big moment in my life where I was either going to react in a positive way or I could’ve reacted in a negative way. If I didn’t choose the positive way, my life might be different today.”
Myers continued to stay around the game of hockey, and after starting school at the University of New Hampshire, it wasn’t long before he had befriended members of the team and started showing up to practices, helping in any way he could.
As opportunities arose, Myers chose to go into the video side of things at UNH, working with the team’s coaches and players to review systems, pre-scout opponents and make in-game adjustments, all crucial elements to any high-level hockey club’s success.
After leaving school, Myers went to work for an energy company before getting an opportunity to join USA Hockey and the women’s national team. Following a successful run there, the Predators brought Myers onto their video staff, and after two seasons in Nashville, he went to Buffalo to assume the role of head video coach with the Sabres, a gig he’s had for the past two years.
It’s not often in the grind of an NHL season one has a moment to sit back and reflect on where they are in life, but Myers was more than willing to do so on this occasion, relaying his inspirational message to the teens.
“I just try to be genuine and authentic and just try to speak from the heart as much as possible,” Myers said. “At the end of the day I’ve achieved my dreams just from the environments that I’ve been raised in and the people that I’ve had supporting me along the way. I’ve been very thankful to have mentors that have believed in me and have instilled this confidence in me.”
Myers wants the young players to realize everyone has goals and dreams they want to achieve, and although they might not know exactly what they are right now, they will someday. Once that moment comes, it’s about finding the strength within themselves to do their best to make it a reality, no matter the obstacles.
“I want them to walk out of here with confidence, with a sort of different perspective on both the world and some challenges that may occur in life,” Myers said. “I want them to know that they’re not alone. There was a moment in time where I felt like I was alone because I was the only little person that I knew of. I don’t want anyone to feel what I felt or to get to the point where I didn’t know if I could do it anymore. I want these guys to have enough confidence and enough belief in who they are and know that they can do anything.”
For the hour-long seminar, Myers instilled those truths to the captivated audience while a photo slideshow played behind him of his “team.” There were members of his family, coaching staffs and players from his various stops, and friends who love him for who he is, no matter what he looks like.
Without that team, Myers said, he wouldn’t have been able to do it, to get to where he is today. He has good days and bad days just like everyone, but he finds a way to preserve no matter what.
So, maybe when one of those teenaged hockey players is feeling down and out, they can think back to the story Myers had to tell.
Because what he might lack in stature, he more than makes up for with passion.
“Whether you’re trying to become a professional hockey player, or a banker or doctor or lawyer, you follow what you’re passionate about and you be the best person you can possibly be,” Myers said. “If I can do it, anyone should be able to do it, and we need those reminders. I need those reminders in life periodically, and I believe everyone does, too.”