Matthew Simonis was finally able to achieve his dreams of being on the ice


Senior Matthew Simonis grew up in a family where his destiny was arranged before he even had a say–and he was perfectly okay with it. Matthew’s family “is hockey,” as he describes it. He grew up playing with his dad, watched games with his relatives, and the only thing he desired was to play on a varsity hockey team. Unfortunately, every time tryouts came around, he was stopped by the same immovable force: fear.

However, entering his final year of high school, Matthew decided to take the risk and face fear head-on, and he finally attempted the thing he so desperately wished to do: trying out for the varsity team.

“Being on the varsity hockey team [was] something I wanted to do for as long as I knew what varsity sports were,” Matthew said. “[In] years past, I just got so nervous to try out that I just wouldn’t show up. I had all the paperwork done, and I just would get so nervous, I’d start throwing up and just didn’t want to show up. I wasn’t confident in myself at all, but this year, I definitely felt more confident.”

Tryouts came, and Matthew went. Not only did he simply show up, but he also came and gave himself in places that were not even required of him. He took on the position that rookies often do, such as filling up water bottles and setting up, and he did them all graciously, always asking, “Is there anything else I can do?”

After tryouts ended, the decisions were final. The moment he’d been waiting for. However, when the news arrived, it was not what he expected. Instead of being a player on the team, he would be the team manager.

Despite not being on the ice, Matthew made his position his top priority, staying just as committed as the next person on the team. He has had nearly perfect attendance and takes his job seriously, helping at weight training sessions, showing up to the 5:30am practices, and providing a role as an extra coach on the team.

All in all, Matthew was the ultimate team player, something that did not go unnoticed by one of his coaches, Kevin Zaschak.

“Matthew is truly an amazing young man,” Zaschak said. “His energy is extremely positive, and [he] will do whatever the team needs to help us be successful. He has been the consummate team guy and has done so many things behind the scenes to help us and never asks for anything in return. Matthew is an extraordinary young man in all facets.”

Because of Matthew’s utter dedication and hard work that he puts into the team, Zaschak had the idea of somehow rewarding him. After running it by team captains, seniors Carl Mielock and Hayden Sarjeant, they came to a conclusion. They would give Matthew the opportunity to play at their upcoming game against Southgate Anderson.

Though there are no guarantees, a chance was all that Matthew needed.

That weekend, they boarded their charter bus and headed down to Detroit. Despite not having played with the team yet this year, Matthew remained startlingly calm in the face of unknown.

“I was nervous the day before, but then once we actually got to the rink, I just felt like I’ve gone through that process so many times with other teams,” Matthew said. “I’ve been part of this team, and I’ve been the team manager, so I knew the routine. So, once I got in the rink, I just felt completely calm and confident.”

The first period started, and Matthew was on the bench all dressed up to play, just waiting for his moment. He wasn’t sure if it would come–there was only a slim chance he would be able to play–but he waited expectantly nonetheless. Then, when the second period came around, he received the words he had been waiting for the entire game.

In the hallway, Hayden and Carl discussed the possibility of Matthew playing in the second period with their coaches.

“The coaches pulled the captains in the locker room next door and said, ‘What do you guys think about Simonis starting and going in?’” Hayden said. “We were like, ‘Yeah, I mean he’s a great guy. He’s done everything right. He’s been to everything. He’s working hard, great attitude. Always positive.’”

After this discussion, they entered the locker room to share the news with the rest of the team. Carl, being the senior captain and starting goalie, made the announcement.

“He gave a little talk to Matt [and said], ‘Great job and season,’’’ Hayden said, recalling the conversations between Carl and Matthew. “Then, Carl told [the team that Matthew] was going to be starting the second period, and he just teared up and was happy as can be. We all went over and hugged him, loved him up; he was definitely pumped up.”

Zaschak recalls this exact moment as well and how the team gave Matthew a standing ovation at the news. He also remembers how there has never, to his knowledge, been something like this to happen on any FHC team, or any other for that matter. Matthew was the first.

And now, Matthew was off to play his first real game on the varsity hockey team on the ice, the very thing he dreamed of his entire life.

“It felt so surreal to me because, at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t going to have a chance to play,” Matthew said. “And then, I finally got this opportunity, and it just felt like a dream come true. It was pretty amazing.”

Matthew played the entire second period and didn’t allow a goal in the team’s 11-0 win. His team celebrated with every save he made. Matthew recalls it as being “a surreal experience,” and how he simply couldn’t believe it was happening because of how amazing it felt.

Just when Matthew thought that nothing could surpass what he was already feeling, he made his way back to the locker room with his team where they had even more surprises awaiting him.

Matthew received two awards that night, one given by the coaches and one given by the teammates, both awarded to who they think the best player was that night.

“It was amazing,” Matthew said. “[My teammates] were all just so happy for me, and they were super excited. They all were behind me 100 percent, and they were so excited to see me get that opportunity. They were just yelling and cheering and just super happy for me. It was awesome.”

After receiving these awards, it is customary to give a speech, which Matthew did not shy away from. He talked about how this team is his family and how hockey is the thing that brings them all together.

These feelings were shared by Hayden, who couldn’t agree more that Matthew deserved those awards.

“We have a little trophy [we give] the hardest-working person or whoever stood out to you in the game,” Hayden said. “It was Matt’s first game, and him getting the award was basically a build-up of everything he did right, everything he’s done right so far during the season, even in the offseason. He definitely earned it.”

While Matthew may have won the best player awards, he doesn’t think that any one person “won the game,” but rather that it was a collection of hard-working players, all coming together for one common goal and achieving it with grace.

That day and that game will forever be a highlight of Matthew’s hockey career, and because of the uncertainty of the future, it may be the very best way to end it. Even though he may not play another game, Matthew’s energetic, atmosphere-changing personality remains ever-prevalent.

Matthew remains ecstatic just to be on the team because for him, it’s not about the ice or the game, but about the family he plays it with.

“It’s like a family, and [they] just really helped me,” Matthew said. “Even coming to school and stuff–I just want to be with the guys.”