Preface: This speech was given at the Agganis Arena in Boston, Massachusetts, in the locker room, before game 3 of the Hockey East Quarterfinals, to the UNH Men’s hockey team in March of 2012.
I’m honored to be standing before you. I’m honored to be having this opportunity to address to you who I am and where I came from. Like all of you before me you gave a speech similar to this your freshman year. For me, I was going to wait until my senior year to give my “Freshman Speech” but a group like this comes once every four years so I decided to write it a year early. By now y’all know my name is Mathew Myers. I was born December 21, 1990 in Manchester, NH. I have two of the most amazing parents, Marty and Sue. I am the oldest of 2 brothers and 1 sister; Mackenzie, Michaeli and Mitchel. I am the only one in my family born with a form of dwarfism, achondroplasia. BIG DEAL.
I learnt to skate around the same time I learnt how to walk. My father would take my brother and I to the local rinks for hours on end teaching us how to push a chair, crossover and eventually stick handle. His focus was on my brother; trying to develop him to become the next Sidney Crosby. Yet I was hooked, I wanted to play. It took a couple of years for my father to finally agree and find the right equipment to fit me. I played for my local house organization once a week for 5 years, 1 year in mites, 4 years in squirts. Boy did I have the best time of my life. I was forced to retire from the game I love at the age of 12. That didn’t stop me though; I found ways to stay involved with this game. In those 5 years I felt the game had given me so much already that I had to give back. On the ice I feel free, I feel like for once I am on an even playing surface as everyone else. For one hour, nothing else matters.
I volunteered and would run the scoreboard and score sheet on weekends. I refereed for 2 years until I realized it’s not much fun when you run into a coach like Umile. I taught kids how to skate and evaluated tryouts. I managed my high school team for four years. It was then when for the first time, I felt that feeling of what it’s like to be a part of a team. I skated at every practice, participated in every drill and was treated like every other player. I didn’t want that feeling to ever go away. I couldn’t let it disappear that easily.
My passion that burned within me allowed me to knock on coach’s door first day my freshman year. I showed up to the first practice uninvited and watched from the stands. Coach gave me an opportunity and I took it. I didn’t travel for 2 years. Yet I worked my ass off and did whatever it took to contribute.
My whole entire life I have been overlooked; but I have taken every opportunity I have been given and have made the most out of it. You see things and ask “Why?” I dream things and say “Why not?” You need to have that mentality tonight. Who you are has always been in your hands, who you will become is still up to you. I hope you continue to work hard. I hope you continue to not cheat yourself or your teammates. Push yourself during every shift. Challenge your ability. Put your body through hell now, and you will be awarded later. That means stops and starts, that means sprinting over gliding, that means back-checking harder than you fore check. You cheat yourself now, you’ll cheat yourself later in life. Bad habits are habits and once you begin them it’s tough to get out of them.
You have all had a wonderful hockey career. Play hockey east rival B.U. with pride. Because what you are doing I will never get to experience. You are representing your school, your town, your family, but more importantly yourself. Every shift you skate, I’ll be in my box coding it with pride. My hockey career consists of 0 assists, 0 Penalty minutes, but 1 goal; to influence the game like it’s never been influenced before. I will conclude with saying my favorite movie is Simon Birch, my favorite song is Dave Matthews “Funny the way it is” and my favorite team to watch is the one before me; The University of New Hampshire Wildcat’s Mens Hockey Team.