The man behind the enforcer: an in-depth look into the life of Minnesota Wild left wing Matt Kassian
Andrew Graham, Talon Staff Writer
Minnehaha Journalism students Andrew Graham and Frances Hoekstra took part in the Minnesota Wild Journalism Event, hosted by the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 15. Both students had the opportunity to interview broadcasters, behind the scenes individuals who work for the Wild and journalists who cover the Wild.
They also had the opportunity to interview Matt Kassian, a left-wing in his seventh year in the NHL and an enforcer on the team. After the event, they both had to enter stories for a writing contest, the results of which will be announced later. This story was written by staff writer Andrew Graham after his interview with Kassian.
Matt Kassian is 6’4”, 240 pounds, and if you met him in an alley, or a corner of an NHL rink, you would be terrified. But if you meet him in his kitchen, he might make you the best steak you’ve ever had. So goes the life of the Wild’s 25-year-old enforcer.
After spending the first portion of the season with the Houston Aeros, the left-winger from Edmonton has amassed 30 penalty minutes, and no points, in his 11 games with the Wild.
However, he sees this role as an enforcer as something positive, and necessary to the success of the team.
Growing up in Canada, hockey has always been a part of Kassian’s life, starting with his grandfather, who was a professional hockey player and a gold medalist at the World Championships.
But there is more to this enforcer than just hockey. His passions may come as a surprise to those who just see him fighting the league’s biggest and baddest on a nightly basis.
“I definitely bring that element to the team,” said Kassian. “[I] bring that ability so that another team knows that if [they]come in here and try to push [us] around you are going to have someone that is going to be able to push back. You don’t have to be worried or scared or intimidated by anyone on the ice. There is always going to be a response should anything happen.”
“I’m not going to be a 30 goal-scorer, a 20 goal-scorer, or even a ten goal-scorer.”
But all this aggression seems to be left on the ice, as Kassian is not defined only by his physical play on the ice, but his love for reading, cooking, fishing, his dog and of course, his love for hockey.
“I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy,” said Kassian. “I like video games, movies, hanging out. I read a lot, which may not be completely normal I guess these days.”
“I love cooking, actually something that I like to do a lot of,” Kassian admitted with a laugh. “I hate cleaning, try to leave that for other people.”
These activities are not what one would expect when they think of Kassian, but they are activities and passions that distance himself from his profession.
“I’m pretty normal,” shared Kassian. “In the summer time I love to go to the lake and [fish]. Just hanging out with my buddies and having a good time.”
Kassian, however, is like many professional athletes, and has over the years developed habits in the daily grind of the sport.
“I have routines,” said Kassian. “I’m hard on routines. You hear a lot about superstitions, and some guys are [superstitious], for me its all about routine. If you have something that gets you comfortable, why wouldn’t you continue to do that?”
But as for his true love hockey, Kassian is continuing to fully “live the dream” as a professional hockey player for the Minnesota Wild.
However, even though it can be difficult at times, there is no place that he would rather be.
“It is an absolute blast, but there are difficult times too, you [have] to work hard and you work at it [but] you still absolutely love it,” said Kassian.
Taking college classes in the summer, Kassian is fully embracing his life as a professional athlete, while still trying to keep his options open after hockey.
“You never know again with injuries,” said Kassian. “Many things happen, you want something to be able to fall back on.”
Throughout his professional experience, Kassian has come to love Minnesota, the only NHL team that he has played for, as well as its fans.
“They’re fantastic, it’s a great hockey community, said Kassian. “The fans here are great you walk around the mall and see a zillion Minnesota Wild shirts and hats.”
Kassian is still trying to make his mark in the league, and attempting to help the Wild rebound as they are currently fighting for a playoff spot.
But the left wing feels as if he has found a home in Minnesota, and a familiar coach in Mike Yeo, who was his coach with the Aeros last year.
He is trying to use his passions for hockey to help the Wild on the ice while enjoying what he loves off of it.