Photo by Don Fennell
The term “meat and potatoes” is commonly used in hockey to describe a player who epitomizes hard work. The kind of player coaches love because they’re reliable. The kind of player teams win with.
The new captain of the Richmond Sockeyes ticks all the boxes.
It was just a few weeks after the Sockeyes sewed up the Cyclone Taylor Cup championship in April, that the provincial Junior B titlists announced they were pinning the “C” on veteran defenceman Matt Brown. There wasn’t a ton of fanfare, but the move immediately elicited a wave of quiet confidence around the team.
“(Pinning the captaincy on Brown) was a no-brainer really,” says Sockeyes’ head coach Brett Reusch. “He’s played at a high level (with the BCHL Surrey Eagles) and is a veteran who wears his heart on his sleeve. Having a young team, it’s crucial to have a leader like him. You can’t teach that kind of stuff.”
Brown accepts his new role proudly, but with equal modesty.
“With so many players graduating last year, those of us returning knew we would have to take on greater leadership roles this year,” he says. “When the Sockeyes asked me to be the captain I was honoured. Growing up watching a player like Adam Nishi leading the Sockeyes to a Western Canadian title (in 2013), and having a chance to play with both Jordan and (outgoing captain) Tyler Andrews, I have seen what it takes to be a great leader. I am going to do my best to reach that same level and help the next generation of players.”
Brown has been playing hockey since he was four years old. He grew up as a proud Seafair Islander, playing for the Richmond-based minor hockey association (which this summer merged with the Richmond Blues to become the Richmond Jets) until his second year of Midget. He was then fortunate enough to start his junior hockey career with the hometown Sockeyes in 2014-15, but after just a pair of games quickly ascended to the B.C. Hockey League. However, injuries limited him to 47 games over two seasons with the Eagles.
Playing 33 games for the Sockeyes last season, Brown had three goals and 14 points. But while he isn’t known for putting up big numbers, the potential is there.
“He handles the puck well and has a good shot,” says Reusch. “And given he’ll see a lot more powerplay time, I think you’ll see his point totals go up.”
Brown patterns his game along the lines of former Vancouver Canucks blueline stalwart Kevin Bieksa. For over a decade, Bieksa defined his career by being a complete player, and further admired for standing up for teammates.
“He’s one of those guys who you would rather have on your team than to have to play against,” Brown says of Bieksa.
Brown considers himself a versatile player and has had coaches call on him to play forward “a few times.” But he’s most at home playing D.
“I would say the most challenging aspect of playing defence is staying composed and not panicking. Quite often you see defenceman getting overwhelmed with pressure from the opposing team, which usually results in a bad play. The biggest thing that I have learned over the past years of playing junior hockey, is that you should always stick to the fundamentals. Simple is good.”
Growing up, Trevor Linden was Brown’s favourite hockey player. The former captain of the Vancouver Canucks remains “one of the classiest players to ever play the game and I admire that,” Brown says.
Brown will be forever thankful to his “hockey family” for his success in the game. That includes coaches, teachers and volunteers.
“But I am really grateful for all the opportunities my parents have given me to play hockey,” he says. “They deserve a lot of credit.”
Besides being only 10 minutes away from his house, the chance to play for the hometown Sockeyes is a dream-come-true. So too was last season’s provincial junior B Cyclone Taylor Cup championship, which he’d love the club to duplicate again in 2019.
Outside of hockey, Brown likes hanging out with friends and family, and lists the chicken tacos from Browns Socialhouse (at Ironwood Plaza) as his choice meal.
“Unreal,” he claims.