Cleaning out the cobwebs

Generals defenseman says it might be time to hang up the skates

After a conversation with Matt Seegmiller, one word comes to mind: mature. The 20-year-old Oshawa Generals defenseman, who just finished his third full year in the Ontario Hockey League, chooses his words carefully when talking to others. He’s not content to rattle off any old answer to an interviewer, but takes his time to consider each question.

“Playing in the OHL is an experience that few get to have,” he says. “When I was younger I looked up to the Guelph Storm players and now kids feel the same way about me. I know I’m not that special, but to them I’m someone to look up to.”

Being an elite hockey player is something that Seegmiller does not take for granted. He knows that he’s one of the lucky few that get to experience hockey at this level.

Seegmiller began skating at age three, but he wasn’t a typically rambunctious child. He’s always been quiet, a kid that likes to go mountain biking, or read, in his spare time.

“My favourite book is The Covenant, by James A. Michener. I like reading books about South Africa,” he says. “I like learning. I really like science, too.”

Seegmiller first played hockey at age six, in his hometown of Guelph. He won his first championship that year on the Beaver Lumber team. He says that he’s always been a defenseman; he thought, at age six, it was cool. Growing up, Ottawa Senators defenseman Wade Redden was his favourite player.

“I really looked up to him,” Seegmiller says. “He’s really involved in the Ottawa community and is a great player.” As a young child, Seegmiller also saw his cousins as role models. Leaving them behind when he came to Oshawa was tough, but with the advent of new technology, it’s been easier to stay in touch with his family.

Being drafted to the OHL was exciting, although looking back on it, Seegmiller recalls that he was nervous the night before. When it finally happened, he was happy with the result. Oshawa was a great experience.

“I lived with John Tavares for three years,” he says. “Playing with a guy like John really lets you see what it’s like being a professional athlete. It’s a lot of work and you have to take it seriously. A lot of days aren’t fun.”

He says, though, if you’re dedicated to what you do, it’s a very rewarding experience. Often he spends 40 hours per week on hockey – including training, practices, games and community appearances.

“It’s like a full time job for $5 a day,” he says with a laugh.

Despite the large commitment asked of such young players, Seegmiller and his teammates have fun. “I’ve made some really great friends through hockey,” he recognizes. “We try and keep things easygoing.”

There are a lot of laughs to choose from, but Seegmiller says that the funniest moment of the year came during a game in Peterborough. Conor Stokes and John Padulo hopped over the boards, but at the last second Jeff Brown decided not to come off the ice. Stokes pushed Padulo back towards the bench where he went flying over the boards. The coaches were obviously irked with the distraction, but the entire team burst into laughter when a small, squeaky voice came from nowhere saying “It’s not his fault, Stokesy pushed him!” Seegmiller swears that to this day, not one person on the team knows who said it.

Not all games hold good memories – twice in his career, Seegmiller received severe concussions after hard hits into the boards. The first hit, compliments of Kitchener’s Mike Duco, left Seegmiller with a permanent scar under his right eye from a broken cheekbone.

Although he is eligible for an overage season, 2008-2009 was Seegmiller’s last season in the OHL. After three solid years with the Generals, the lure of a real student experience was too good an opportunity to pass up. Seegmiller will be pursuing a degree in Environmental Engineering at the University of Waterloo in September, following in the footsteps of four of his cousins, who have also done engineering.

At the moment, he isn’t sure whether hockey is in his future. He says he’s talked with the coaches of the Waterloo hockey team, but he may decide to take some time off to concentrate on making the adjustment to school.

“I’m ready to move on,” he says. “The concussions I’ve had over the last few years helped persuade me to take a break for a while. It’s been an amazing experience here, but I need a little time off to clean out the cobwebs in my head.”