Toronto Maple Leafs star, Scottsdale native excited to face hometown team

Auston Matthews is looking forward to facing off against Shane Doan and the Coyotes


Courtesy of Vlad Podvorny

Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., where the Maple Leafs will host the Coyotes on Thursday night.

Jeremy Beren, Managing Editor, Scottsdale Chronicle

Auston Matthews’ emergence as one of the National Hockey League’s top young players did not take long. In his first career game on Oct. 12, the 19-year-old scored a goal on each of his first three shots, finishing the game with four goals. His team may have lost that game to the Ottawa Senators, but Matthews had captured the attention of the hockey and sporting world.

Matthews has scored 13 goals in 28 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team that selected him first overall in the 2016 NHL Draft this past summer. Unlike many other NHL stars, however, Matthews’ origins are not in Canada, or even in one of the United States’ hockey hotbeds. Matthews was born in San Ramon, Calif., but was raised in Scottsdale, Ariz. and grew up a fan of the Arizona Coyotes.

Matthews talked to Coyotes Radio before the Maple Leafs faced the Coyotes in Toronto on Thursday night, confirming that this game was one he had circled on the calendar.

“It’s always fun to play your hometown team,” Matthews said. “I have a lot of great memories growing up, watching the Coyotes play and watching Shane Doan play, growing up he was one of my favorite players.”

Matthews and his family relocated to Scottsdale from the Bay Area when he was two months old. When he was young, he plied his trade at the Ice Den, which is where the Coyotes practice, and the center idolized Doan and former Coyotes center Danny Briere.

“I just loved watching them play, always tried to imitate all the things they did on the ice when I was a young kid,” Matthews said.

When asked if he had ever envisioned playing against Doan, the Coyotes’ long-time captain and a player known for leaving it all on the ice, Matthews admitted he had never really thought about the possibility.

“Growing up, I just wanted to play in the NHL,” he said. “Now it’s kind of a reality, it’s gonna be pretty cool just to play against one of your childhood idols. somebody that you grew up kind of idolizing. It’s nice being able to get to know him over the last couple years and the type of person he is, not only the incredible hockey player he is and the great career he’s had, but just the type of person he is off the ice, definitely someone I like to look up to.”

Matthews also was asked about adjusting to hockey-crazed Toronto and what it has been like to play for a rebuilding Maple Leafs team.

“It’s been a blast so far this year,” Matthews said. “We got eight rookies, a lot of young guys, a lot of young talent, so we’re all kind of going through similar things together, so it’s nice to kind of feed off each other and have each other there. It’s obviously a long season, so there’s gonna be a lot of ups and downs and…we’ve got a real good variety of veterans as well that can help us out with that, too.”

While Matthews was born in California, some hockey-loving Arizonans have referred to him as one of their own. This is a distinction Matthews is more than comfortable with.

“I’m pretty fortunate to have a lot of people from Arizona help me get to this place,” he said. “Coaches, parents, teammates, my own family, so I feel pretty fortunate to be in this position. Like I said, Arizona’s home and it’s where I grew up, so it’s definitely pretty special.”