Stefanishion ready to make an impact
Alberta-native Matt Stefanishion is finally back on home soil after 11 years of hockey took him clear across North America.
At six-feet-three-inches tall, the SAIT Trojans hockey forward is hard to miss. It’s not just his height, however, that makes 28-year-old Stefanishion a real presence on – and off – the ice.
“When a guy of that calibre comes to a team like this, you’re kind of like a sponge,” said Trojans centreman Nolan Souchotte, a first-year student in Environmental Technology. “You soak up any information he has to offer.”
Stefanishion first left his hometown of Daysland, Alta., at age 17 to play hockey for Sherwood Park. He’s since played hockey for teams in Saskatchewan, Michigan, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, South Carolina, California, Connecticut and Alaska.
“It was crazy,” said Stefanishion, now in his first year of Electrical Engineering Technology at SAIT. “I’ve pretty much seen all that the United States has to offer, just through hockey.”
Stefanishion said SAIT’s reputation for hockey and the ability to break into the oil and gas industry are what brought him back to Alberta. He’s been named assistant team captain and plays right wing for the Trojans.
“I had tried to recruit Matt eight years ago,” said SAIT Trojans men’s hockey coach, Ken Babey. “He’s conscientious, wants to lead and he likes competition. Those are all good variables for me as a coach.”
The greatest highlight of Stefanishion’s career was when, straight out of college, he signed an NHL deal with the Washington Capitals.
“I didn’t expect it,” said Stefanishion. “To be offered your dream to play for the NHL is pretty huge… to go there and skate on the ice with (Alexander) Ovechkin and all of the superstars throughout the league.”
Unfortuntely for Stefanishion, injuries prevented him from living his dream in the NHL. He spent his first summer with the team in Washington D.C. rehabbing a wrist injury. After getting healthy, he tried out for the Capitals and was sent down to their AHL affiliate the Hershey Bears. In his very first game with Hersey, Stefanishion separated his shoulder. The Capitals decided it would be better to let him go because he was often injured and in the final year of his contract.
Stefanishion says family is important to him, so it comes as no surprise that his biggest fan is his mother.
“I give her warnings (before games),” he said. “(I) say ‘No signs; please don’t embarrass me; hold it together.’”
Now, as a mature student, Stefanishion said some people poke fun that he’s the old kid in class. He remains undeterred by the joking.
“Experience is a huge thing,” he said. “I’m a very honest and caring person who likes to work hard and be successful.”
“So far I really like what I see on and off the ice,” said Babey. “He’s a key player for us. I’m glad he’s here.”
• Fave sport (other than hockey, of course): golf and snowboarding
• Hobby: construction projects
• Halloween plans: That’s up to his teammates, but he says: “If I do dress up, I think I may go as (a music artist from) LMFAO.”
• The things he can’t be without: “(My) cellphone,” laughed Stefanishion. “(It’s) number one on everybody’s list. Then food – and more food. Steak is my favourite; medium rare.”