Jack Matier finds “maturity” in development with 67’s

Jack Matier has packed a lot into his four years of hockey with the Ottawa 67’s, twice winning 50 or more games, and living through a global pandemic that wiped teams off the ice for an entire season.

He’s done plenty of growing. On the ice, he went from a player hesitant to shoot the puck while on a defensive pairing with Noel Hoefenmayer in his first season, to a guy who scored 13 goals and 49 points this season. In the locker room, he sprouted into a leader, quickly earning the trust of Head Coach Dave Cameron and the rest of the coaching staff.

“Jack is kind of an old soul type of guy,” Cameron said. “He appreciates a lot of things away from hockey. He fishes, he’s quiet, and he can come to the rink and do all of the work that’s required of him, but away from the ice, he can just let it go and be a really good person.”

Matier wasn’t always this reliable, he too was once a rookie. He joined the Barber Poles after being selected with the 21st overall pick in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, and immediately, started eating up big time minutes under former Head Coach André Tourigny.

His rookie season was a massive success, as the 67’s entered the COVID era with a .815 points percentage, the best in franchise history. The playoffs were cancelled, and the Barber Poles’ chance at the Memorial Cup was gone, but Matier continued working.

Not many players can claim their first OHL goal came after they were drafted in the NHL, but Matier can, after the Nashville Predators used a fourth-round pick on him in 2021. He scored his first goal in the league’s return in 2021, finding the back of the net twice in a game against the Oshawa Generals.

The story of Matier’s early days in Ottawa will be remembered for its extreme highs and tremendous lows, but when he looks back on it now, it’s hard to recognize how different things were.

“It’s so funny how much more mature I am now than I was as a 16-year-old,” Matier remarked. “It’s such a special organization for development. I came in here as a raw prospect, and now I feel like a complete hockey player, and a person as well. That’s a credit to the organization, starting with André Tourigny, and then Dave who did great as well.”

A reserved person, Matier doesn’t typically show his full hand of emotions, keeping himself even keel during the season, no matter how great – or bleak – things look.

“Everyone kinda pokes fun at him because he seemed grumpy, but he never was, that’s just Jack,” Cameron joked. “He came out as one of my leaders, he did everything right, and he was a really dominant player on an excellent team, so that’s a credit to him.”

His leadership was tested in the postseason, as the 67’s found themselves down 3-1 at the hands of the Peterborough Petes, with a third period looming where they needed a massive comeback. Matier was a motivator, and it paid off. It nearly worked in Game 6, as well, but the Barber Poles came up short.

Perhaps it’s a holdover from the days when the motto was “no quit,” or maybe it’s just who it is, but either way, Cameron knew who he could lean on.

“It’s when the waters get a little choppy that the real leaders show themselves,” Cameron said.

The playoff loss was “abrupt,” Matier says. It was difficult to swallow. The chance to win a title with this group was gone, but even worse, the team will never be the exact same again.

“You spend so much time with your teammates throughout the year, good times and bad,” Matier said. “They are your family, that’s all we have. It’s a special bond that not a lot of people understand, and even fewer will ever experience. This was a special group.”

Teams play to win championships, and those who do are considered immortal in their respective communities, but when everyone ages out, and return to Ottawa for alumni nights in 30 years’ time, the bonds they built with one another will be just as important.

“If you look back at [the teams I have been a part of], yeah, we were great on the ice, but off the ice, we were leaders in the community, and everyone was a great person,” Matier remembered. “I’ve built friendships with everyone over my four years here, and I’m really proud of that, and they will be friends for life.”

After all of it, Matier’s best memory from the season is the bus ride home after clinching the regular season championship, where the players had the music cranked, and sung their hearts out.

“That’s probably the most fun that I have had this year,” Matier said. “We worked so hard, and this group achieved so much throughout the year. So many people doubted us all year long, so when we finally did clinch the regular season, I got to show the guys a different side of me. It’s a great memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

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