Rod Matheson may have to rebuild a track in the backyard of his Pointe-Claire home.
This would be for his grandson.
Rod and Marg Matheson’s three sons — Kelly, now 32, Kenny, 31, and Mike, 28 — learned to skate at the backyard rink and later went through the Sport-Études hockey program at school. John Rennie High School.
Mike left home at age 17 to continue his hockey career with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints in Iowa before being selected by the Florida Panthers in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. 2012. That was followed by three years at Boston College, where he met his future wife, and brief stints in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage and Portland Pirates before making his NHL debut with the Panthers.
Now, after seven seasons in the NHL, including the last two in Pittsburgh, Mike returns to Montreal to play for the Canadiens after being acquired from the Penguins for Jeff Petry on July 16.
He will return with his wife, Emily, and their one-year-old son, Hudson.
When asked about the possibility of getting the backyard track back for Hudson, Rod said, “Now it’s worth it. He will be here.
Rod and Marg only got to see their grandson about three times during the first year of his life. They were thrilled to get to spend 10 days with him last month when Mike, Emily and Hudson came to Montreal for a visit and stayed with the grandparents.
“We think that’s our first and only time of the year that they’re going to be here,” Rod said Friday.
That suddenly changed when news of Mike’s trade to Montreal broke and his parents were shocked.
“That news, I can assure you, was at the top of Marg’s list: ‘Let’s go see our grandson!’ Rod said.
Last weekend, Mike, Emily, and Hudson headed back to Montreal to start looking for a new house and to visit the Bell Center, along with Rod and Marg.
“It’s like walking into something secret,” Rod said of visiting the Canadiens’ locker room. “All the behind-the-scenes stuff…the lounge and the gym and the medical area. There’s a little town down there.”
Mike tried on his new No. 8 Canadiens sweater with his name on the back for the first time and his wife wore a matching sweater, while Hudson wore one with No. 8 and “Daddy” on the back.
“Any trade is basically getting a hand grenade thrown at you in life,” Rod said when asked about his son’s reaction to the trade. “In a six-week period, Mike and Emily will sell a house, buy a house, move, and attend a couple of weddings in between. It’s a six week old Action Jackson and that’s the first thing that strikes you. But given some time, he says, ‘I’m going to play for my dream team. This is the team I grew up watching. You can’t sit on the nosebleeds at the Bell Center (as a kid) and think that one day you’re going to be on that team. So for it to happen is pretty surreal for all of us.
“He’s not the most emotional guy, so the emotion doesn’t boil over. But you can see it in him and know when he’s excited.”
This is an exciting time for the entire Matheson family. Rod said that he received more than 200 text messages after the exchange.
“It was crazy and it was so much fun for all the people that I heard,” said Rod, who still plays hockey with the Pointe-Claire Oldtimers. “A lot of my current friends and colleagues, but I also heard from people I went to high school with. I went to get my mail and had a note written on top of my mail from our mail carrier. It shows how much attention there is on Canadians.”
Rod is confident his son is ready for the glittering spotlight that comes with playing in Montreal.
“He’s been through adversity in his career,” Rod said. “Not everything was easy in Florida and as much as this was not in the same light, he had to deal with adversity and has learned how to deal with things, how to react and how to move on. I think he’s matured through all of that and at 28 I think he’s ready for the scrutiny of Montreal. Maybe he wasn’t when he was 23.”
Kent Hughes knows the Matheson family well because he was Mike’s agent before he became the Canadiens’ general manager last January. After switching to Mike, Hughes described him as a “five-star human being,” words that would make any parent proud.
“Pretty fantastic,” Rod said of his reaction to those words. “Marg and I realized that maybe we did a thing or two right when you hear something like that. We will push that ranking well ahead of many other sports-related rankings.”
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