[OFB note: We first learned of Mathieu Perreault’s deep-rooted love affair with playing hockey outdoors when we interviewed him after an outdoor Hershey Bears’ practice last season. Other Capitals share his passion for sure, but few find themselves in Matty’s circumstances late in 2010: recently recalled by the Caps, auditioning game by game for retention with the parent club and wondering, literally day by day, if he’ll be a participant in what is perhaps the biggest game in Capitals’ history — the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field. So we approached MP85 and asked him if he’d share with us a diary of his reflections and emotions about playing hockey outdoors as a youth and potentially being a part of this year’s Winter Classic. Below is Matty’s first diary entry, and we’ll hear from him again this week and after the big game — assuming he’s in it and assuming it doesn’t get rained out.]
The last time I spoke with On Frozen Blog before being recalled to Washington was after a Sunday night game in Hershey last month. They told me, it would be a good idea to be recalled in December so that I could accompany the Capitals to Pittsburgh for the Winter Classic New Years Day. Maybe this is how it will work out. Last week I spoke again with them, and I was asked, at what point during this recall did I first begin to think about the possibility of participating in the Winter Classic? I only think about playing one game, and from there I always go day to day. And then I am here one more day and one more day . . . and as games go by, I did begin to think about it. We were getting closer, and I was like, ‘Well, I might be playing that game that day.’
I am very excited. I cannot wait for that day if I can get there.
The hardest aspect is trying to make arrangements for family and friends. For sure I will get my dad and mom tickets for Pittsburgh. That’s for sure. And I have already looked into booking flights for them. The way I play right now I feel like my game is good so that I can be here for that game. The game in Pittsburgh is sold out, and I had to battle to get two tickets for my parents, so for friends and other family, it will be hard to get additional tickets, but just having my parents there will be special for me.
My most special memories in hockey are from my years playing outside back home. Every day I don’t have school I go out to skate all morning — all morning! — then I have lunch, then go out to skate again all afternoon, go home for dinner, then go back out to skate at night. I could easily go out for six hours or more just playing and playing with my brother and my friends. I couldn’t wait for the snow and ice to come so I could go out and play. I feel like this is the reason why I may be a good hockey player, practicing so much at outdoor rinks. The emphasis is on skills out there — that’s all you do out there. Skills and passing with your friends. I feel like these skates outdoors helped me greatly with my career, to be out there every day and practicing.
I spent so much time outside — as much practicing outside as practicing inside with more structured practices. But even when I practiced indoors I would come home and go back outside and play more. I love the game so much. This is all I’ve done with my whole life.
Because of the heavy snow in Quebec, sometimes we would play just 15 minutes and then spend the next 15 minutes shoveling, then play another 15 minutes before needing to start shoveling again. But we loved the game so much that we didn’t care. We had 10, 15 guys who would shovel the snow, so our enthusiasm never lessened.
The games always would involve my brother, the players on my youth teams, and friends from the neighborhood. We would play all day long. My brother was out there with me all of the time.
I am supposed to tell you the most number of goals I scored during a game of shinny during all of my skates growing up. But I would play for so long, it is perhaps impossible for me to say. I would score so many goals in those days — it is safe to say more than a dozen for sure!
How cold was it skating outdoors in Quebec? I would sometimes have to wear three pairs of pants in order to skate outside in our winter games. Three shirts and a jacket, too, and a scarf that was so big you could only see my eyes through it! I think you could say that in all my layers I looked bigger than D.J. King!
We would go out when it was minus 25 or 30 Celsius. We had a little warming house we could retreat to when it became so cold our feet could not take the cold any longer. But always we would return to our games after we warmed up. We were going out no matter what the weather was.
This game in Pittsburgh means so much to me. It is day to day for me, but I feel really good about my game. I really think I am going to get there.