While Matthews has as much experience as anyone on the team, she doesn’t try to coach her teammates a lot, instead leaving that up to the staff. She has a passion for hockey, but still gets inspired by those around her, including seeing how hard double amputees play.
“That’s what I love. That’s how I’ve been playing all these years,” Matthews said. “I can’t back off, I can’t be afraid. Let’s just go hard.”
Still, having played the sport for 25 years, which included skating on the U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey Team from 2010 to 2015, Matthews has seen the game progress in many ways.
“Since I started playing in 1994 when I was 16, the game has developed quite a bit, in terms of skill level, equipment, speed, everything has changed so much,” Matthews said.
At the international level, 25 years ago there was only one U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, and it was just in its fourth year of existence. Today, there are three: the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, U.S. Men’s Development Sled Hockey Team and U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey Team. In 1994, the sport itself made its debut at the Paralympic Winter Games. Today, the United States has won a world-leading four gold medals (2002, 2010, 2014, 2018), including an unprecedented three-straight.
The biggest reason for the international success? The sport’s growth at the recreation and club level. Today, USA Hockey hosts events like the Toyota-USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival, the largest disabled hockey event of its kind. As for the aforementioned Sled Classic, its inaugural event included just four teams and 60 participants, a far cry from the 30 teams and 362 players that skated in Chicago.
As the sport continues to grow to unprecedented heights, Matthews has every intention to keep playing as long as she is able.
“It’s so cool for me to be able to say that, even though I have been playing for such a long time, that I am still in position mentally and physically to play — not only play, but help teams win and make teams better.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.