Six years ago, Matt Brown was playing on Quebec ice as a prospect wanting to make a name for himself among the highest ranked prospects in the country.
He had no idea what his future held.
Fast-forward to 2017 – and Brown is finishing up a business education degree as well as his university hockey career at Mount Royal University in Calgary – a twist even he didn’t see coming.
Brown says he wants to pursue hockey while he can. “Whatever offers are available I’d jump on.”
Men’s hockey captain and forward player, Brown is in his final season as an MRU Cougar but is still uncertain about what life holds for him after he graduates with a degree in business administration. One thing he knows for sure is that he hopes his future will involve hockey.
The road to MRU Cougars
Prior to university, Brown already had an impressive hockey resume to his name and used that experience to climb the ranks of junior hockey.
He played for the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for two-and-a-half seasons from 2008 to 2010. Brown was then sent to the prestigious Quebec City Ramparts for a season and brought up under the wing of legendary NHL Hall-of-Famer goalie, Patrick Roy, who coached in the NHL for three seasons.
Taking those experiences with him, Brown moved out west in 2011 to play for the Cowichan Valley Capitals in B.C. before being recruited by Mount Royal.
“It was a pretty big transition, I jumped in with both feet there,” Brown says about Cowichan, adding, it was “one of the greatest choices I made in my life.”
Moving out west to Vancouver Island as a 20-year-old has given Brown a sense of living two separate lives. At the time, Brown didn’t have many friends from the East Coast while living in the west and vice versa, as well as finding it hard to adjust to the culture change.
A friend on the ice
During that transition, Brown met his best friend Devin Gannon in B.C. Together, they now play on the same team.
“Both of us were excited about the possibility of coming to MRU when we heard there’s a possibility of us joining Mount Royal together,” says Gannon.
After Brown’s successful season averaging more than a point a game in Cowichan, Brown, along with Gannon, moved to Calgary and in 2012 starting their new lives as student-athletes.
“For the first month or so of school, living on res. was super overwhelming getting involved in school again after playing as a 20-year-old taking two years off,” explains Brown.
The two linemates have been roommates for three years, living in residence and building a friendship that Gannon knows will carry on for the rest of their lives.
Helping MRU Cougars hockey succeed
The light at the end of the tunnel seems so close but so far away for Brown.
The student-athlete has some electives to finish at MRU before he can look forward to closing the books once and for all and see what doors are available to him.
Building up with the Mount Royal hockey program, Brown’s journey has been a rollercoaster ride. He was part of the not-so-successful periods where the MRU Cougars finished in the bottom half of the standings, to today where the team is reaching higher standards every season, now finishing in the top half.
After being named captain at the start of his third season under the new system and guidance of coach Bert Gilling, the program has been reaching higher standards every year since.
Brown’s favorite memory of the program was the team’s first-ever playoff series win. “It was a super emotional series for all the guys, we felt like we had an identity as a school and instilled belief in Cougar hockey.”
He believes the Cougars’ hockey program is only going to grow faster and for the better under the direction of head coach Gilling, hoping one day it will reach the standards of the University of Alberta, a team known for their prestige and reputation as a top school in university hockey.
“It’s kind of the vision of where we want the program to be in the next five, 10, 20 years,” says Brown.
A player with a bright future
Coach Gilling is the one who gives Brown the credit for recent success in the past three seasons.
“He keeps control of the locker room. To have him out of the team for an extended period, you can’t replace his leadership. He’s such a great guy, he means so much to everybody in our program. It’s hard to have him on the sidelines,” says Gilling.
After Brown hangs up his skates for the last time in the Cougars dressing room, he says he still wants to be around the MRU community and is aiming to attend any game he can while also contributing ideas towards the growth of the program off the ice.
People who know Brown agree that he possesses a constant devotion and dedication to Cougar hockey. Gilling believes that with the work ethic and dedication Brown possesses, he will make it to a professional level – just like former Cougars Tyler Fiddler and Cody Cartier.
Gilling says, “Matt Brown absolutely is at the same level as those guys. And I suspect he’ll fall along, and will get his degree and will have a great pro career as well.”
Being constantly characterized as the guy you can’t hate, the people around Brown believe that all his hard work will result in a pro career for him.
The editor responsible for this article is Nora Cruickshank and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org