UNH Senior Banquet Speech
April 20, 2013
In life we do things. Some we wish we had never done. Some we wish we could replay a million times in our heads. But they all make us who we are, and in the end shape every detail about us. If we were to reverse any of them we wouldn’t be the person we are today. So just live, make mistakes, have wonderful memories. But never second guess who you are, where you’ve been and most importantly where it is you are going.
We all have memories that we can always look back on in times of despair and be proud of who we are, what we’ve done and all we’ve accomplished. Today we’ve seen plenty of individual highlights that have been achieved because of the hard work, time and determination these accomplished men have put forth. My highlight reel doesn’t consist of any amazing snipes, sick cellies, academic achievements or wild opportunities created because of my skill and value. Instead of having a highlight, I have a spotlight that I necessarily don’t want, but have embraced.
2002 was a big year for me. I was 12 years old and beginning to realize that while everyone’s growing, I’m not. Every room I would walk into, all eyes would be on me. Not because I was making a presence, but because I was different. This new form of attention started to create discomfort. This was also the year, I was told that I would have to retire from playing the game I love; hockey. That year, I felt like I had no purpose. I had so many questions with no answers.
I was faced with the choice to give up or get going. I decided to believe in myself. I stopped concentrating on the things I didn’t have and started to appreciate the things I did; my family, my friends and my drive.
I still remember the first time I laced up my skates, like it was yesterday. Because this energetic-happiness fulfilled my heart. Every time I have ever touched the ice, for one hour nothing else in the world matters. For once it feels like the playing surface is even. It’s this feeling I never wanted to lose, it’s this feeling that makes me the happiest. It’s the best feeling in the world. I was determined to make hockey my purpose.
It was move in day, freshmen year that I decided that I wanted to dedicate my next 4 years to a team that I followed so closely growing up. I called Coach that day, he with absolute politeness and respect listened to my story, invited me to come watch a practice, but warned me that they had a full staff but would love for me to meet Tom Wilkins (Sports Information Director). First practice came along; I sat and watched in amazement. Second practice, I sat and watched again, and I was blown away. Third practice, Coach noticed and called me down. He introduced me to the boys and gave me the opportunity of a life time, the opportunity that changed my life.
Now here I am, 4 years later. Giving a speech in front of the most highly respectable and envied group of men this University has to offer. A day hasn’t gone by this year since that third practice freshmen year where I haven’t thanked God for this opportunity. I’m not only appreciative for the opportunity but the people I get to share this opportunity with. Because it’s sometimes not what you do, but who you do it with.
Thank you Thank you Thank You Coach Umile— for everything. For giving me those 5 minutes in your office 4 years ago, for treating me like a player, a member of the staff, a friend, like one of your grandsons, like one of your own. You’re a true role model; you’ve shown me that success isn’t deserved without first being earned.
Coach Borek, Thank you for consistently expecting perfection out of me. You’ve taught me that respect, politeness and hard work can create opportunities in an environment that truly believes in you and appreciates you.
Coach Tortorella, you’re contagious work-ethic and vision to turn nothing into something is admirable. I can’t thank you enough for all of the hours you’ve spent with me dissecting film, teaching me the complex game of hockey and giving me that fatherly yelling at times when the focus is lost. You’ve taught me that dreams aren’t you see when you sleep, they are the things that keep you from sleeping.
Colin Shank, you know SHANK as in what you’re ball does when it goes far left– you shank it. I can’t thank you enough for your friendship, guidance, leadership and understanding over the past 4 years. Nothing beats a Colin Shank joke at practice after you’re not feeling too hot about the exam you just took. Your passion, hard-work, effort and attitude don’t go unnoticed. You’re a big reason why this program is so prominent, respected and envied. Thank you for the opportunity, thank you for the laughs and thank you for all that you do.
Josh Carter, thank you for being my friend throughout this entire journey. You’re truly an unbelievable kid with an unbelievable future ahead of him. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to share every memory, laugh and tear had at the rink, in the hotel and on the weekends.
Mom and Dad, you two deserve the world. I can’t thank you enough for all of the support, love and encouragement you’ve given me the past 22 years. Thank you for being their when I needed you two the most. This journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. You’ve taught me that those who are the happiest, are those who do the most for others. You’ve taught me to be there for the boys. To be there for your team, no matter how big or small your impact is. I love you so much.
I’d like to also thank my girlfriend, who is as real as Manti Teo’s .
Lastly, I’d like to thank the boys. The boys who make going to the rink everyday an absolute enjoyment and excitement. I tweet a lot, I wear my unh hockey apparel a lot, and I try to get on the ice as much as I can because I look up to you, in a way that’s so much more than literal. I’ve never been prouder in my life then in these past 4 years because I’m able to say that I’m associated with the UNH hockey team. Thank you for friendship, your brotherhood and your loyalty. Thank you for making me feel a part of the team. Thank you for the rides, the laughs and the memories.
To Connor Hardowa, Austin Block, Scott Pavelski, Brett Kostolanski, John Henrion, and Greg Burke; I can’t be more prouder to share this stage with you, to call you all brothers. It was an amazing journey and we all have so much to be proud of. The leadership from these men was the best I’ve seen all four years. You all will have a special place in my heart, I wish you all the best of luck in whatever your future holds. Always remember, the family you have back in Durham. I wish you nothing but the best of luck in your future endeavors.
The biggest lesson I’ve learnt over the past 4 years is if you are given an opportunity; grab it, hold onto it, and run with it. I did, and it gave me the greatest four years of my life. Thank you all for playing such an important role. In this very moment I can honestly say, I’ve never been more proud to be a wildcat.
Wonderful Speech, Mat! I so enjoy reading your blog.