Arizona Rubber

Arizona’s and New Mexico’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

The Whyte Stuff: Respect comes with doling out credit where credit is due


Years ago, a father walked into my office at Oceanside to explain to me his son would play elsewhere because he didn’t make the top team at DYHA.

As I was telling him I understood, he blurted out, “I know one day, Sean, your dream will come true. You will have a player from your program make it to the NHL.”

I immediately responded, “You honestly think that is my dream?” He looked at me like my Boxer when I made a strange sound – cocking his head to the side and a puzzled expression on his face.

I explained that my dream was to teach as many young players as I could about life, using hockey as a medium.

There is so much hockey offers that will ultimately benefit everyone involved, such as teamwork, accountability, discipline and respect.

He still didn’t quite understand where I was coming from. He truly thought all I wanted was to put a player from Arizona in the NHL.

Well, many years later, we have a homegrown Arizonian drafted first overall into the NHL. What an astounding feat! From a place where having a hockey arena is like keeping an ice cube frozen in the oven.

The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Auston Matthews No. 1 and then Todd Burgess was taken by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round. A great accomplishment for Arizona.

Or is it?

Is Matthews a product of what Arizona is producing as hockey players? Or is he someone that truly worked countless hours with the God-given talents endowed within his soul? I constantly heard whispers, “His parents are going to burn Auston out!” What they didn’t realize was it was probably the other way around.

For all this young hockey phenom has surpassed, and all he most likely will during his NHL career, I would love to take some sort of credit. However, I look at it in a different light.

Rather than viewing this young man’s prosperous pilgrimage as one I played a part in, I immerse myself in being given the opportunity to work with a player so truly genuine and pure to the sport. Auston, or so affectionately nicknamed, “Papi,” has endured an arduous road that most could not envision. His work ethic is incomparable, and is only compounded by his passion and inherent ability to learn a skill and keep it forever.

Like a saying I heard years ago, “Amateurs do it until they get it right. Professionals do it until they don’t get it wrong.” Matthews has taken one of the most unconventional paths to the top, but his success is truly based on one thing only: Auston Matthews.

If any credit should be doled out, it can only go to this astounding young man and his incredibly kind and humble family. Anyone else passing claim on his success only does him an injustice.

Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe all of his coaches had a play in his development, but please don’t lose sight of all the time and effort Auston put in himself. I throw kudos out to Boris Dorozhenko, Don Granato and Marc Crawford. I’m positive they were huge influences in his development.

But let’s face it, Auston Matthews was going to make it based on Auston Matthews.

When I was drafted into the NHL, the GM of my junior team made it clear to me the only reason I was drafted was because of them. I felt so cheated. None of them put in the work or dealt with the pain, suffering and tears that I did. I owe my gratitude to my family and my first coach, Don Giesebrecht.

For all those playing hockey in Arizona, be proud! Mr. Auston Matthews has put us on the hockey map! But also respect that everything he has done to get this far is out of sheer determination and faith on his part.

Sean Whyte is the director of hockey operations and coach-in-chief at DYHA.

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