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Tapped In: Duchene living his childhood dream

by Kathryn Tappen

The Colorado Avalanche quickly have become the sweetheart team of the NHL. With their remarkable 11-1-0 start, new coach Patrick Roy and an abundance of youth, the Avs are the team to watch -- and beat. It certainly helps the Avalanche have Matt Duchene in the lineup every night; he fashioned a nine-goal opening month. While he's scored video-game type goals, the third pick of the 2009 NHL Draft not only is one of the biggest stars in the League, but he's also a talented guitarist, comes from an impressive hockey pedigree and has a companion in his life without whom he can't live.

Kathryn Tappen: What has been the best part of the Avs early season success?

Matt Duchene: We had a big turnover from the last few years and things are a lot different now. What's been really fun for me is that I grew up a huge Avs fan and worshiped Patrick [Roy], [Joe] Sakic, [Peter] Forsberg and Adam Foote. Getting a chance to be a part of this with them and having them mold our team has been real special for me. We have so much Avalanche pride right now. It's exciting to be a part of something big here again in Denver. This was a big hockey market back in the day and we're trying to bring it back.

KT: What was your reaction when you learned that one of your childhood idols, Patrick Roy, was going to be your new coach?

MD: I was excited. I had heard a lot of really great things about Patrick and I was excited to play for him. I knew how passionate he was about the game and how smart he is. I had a lot of really high expectations and he's even gone above and beyond that which has been pretty special.

KT: You were drafted No. 3 in 2009 by your favorite NHL team, Colorado. What was that moment like for you?

MD: It was unbelievable. Even before a recent game I was standing in my stall right before warmups and I saw my name on the stall beside the Avalanche logo. I looked at my jersey and looked around the room. I have to pinch myself and I was like that when I was drafted. Is this real life or am I imagining it? Obviously it becomes reality fairly quick. It's a huge dream come true for me.

KT: Your goals have been highlight-reel plays. Are you finding different ways to score each night?

MD: I'm trying to. The one thing I wanted to do this year was be a better goal scorer than I've been in the past. I've always been a pass-first guy. I'm probably more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer; I would never call myself a natural goal-scorer but I do think I can be better in that department. I'm doing all kinds of stuff to try and get better. I'm using more flexible sticks, just trying different things. I'm finding it's working so far so I've got to keep it going. The more unpredictable you are the harder you are to stop.

KT: Do you focus on particular players in the NHL to pick up some goal-scoring tips?

MD: I trained with Sid [Crosby] this summer and watched his every move. He's the best there is. The more I can pick up from a guy like that the better. [Pavel] Datsyuk is unbelievable. Those two guys are my favorite players.

KT: You signed a five-year, $30 million contract extension this past July. How did you celebrate?

MD: (laughs) My girlfriend and I went out for a nice dinner here in Denver and celebrated. We had a wedding the next day and I had a chance to be around a lot of my teammates to celebrate some more. They were really happy for me. They knew I had been through some tough times here with a lot of injuries so it was great to celebrate with them.

KT: Your uncle, Newell Brown, is the assistant coach in Phoenix. What's it like having a family member coach an opposing team in your conference?

MD: I end up rooting for the team he's coaching -- obviously not when it's against us -- just because it's family. I keep an eye on Phoenix because I want my uncle to do well. He watches all of our games that he can catch. He's such a smart hockey guy and he's always sending me texts and checking in. He provides a lot of encouragement. It's fun to go out to dinner with him when we're on the road. It's pretty cool to be able to share this lifestyle with a family member.

KT: Newell was an assistant in Anaheim when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007. Were you at his Stanley Cup party?

MD: Yes. I had just been drafted by Brampton in the OHL and he had it at my grandparents' place. It's where my mom grew up. We went there and had the party. His son also plays hockey for the ECHL team here in Colorado. There's some good family synergy going on these days.

KT: You're very involved in charity work in Colorado, including visiting military veterans. Why is that important to you?

MD: I try to do whatever I can to help in the community in Denver. I love giving back. I have been incredibly blessed with this life I've been given and you want to help those in need. I am a Christian guy and want to live my life that way.

KT: You have helped raise money for the Jessica Redfield Foundation. Jessica, a young journalist, was killed in the Aurora movie theatre shooting in 2012. Did you know her?

MD: Jessica interviewed me a few times. I didn't know her very well but certainly knew who she was. What happened to her was such a tragedy. I am in touch with her mom a lot. She's an amazing woman and incredibly strong. She impresses me so much and I try to help her out any time I can.

Matt Duchene is enjoying his time playing for the Avalanche.

Matt Duchene is enjoying his time
playing for the Avalanche.
(Click to enlarge)

KT: Tell me about the signed team jersey from the Boston Bruins you helped buy for 11-year old Trista Greer, a young girl who was being bullied.

MD: Her dad, Wayde, is in my community in Haliburton [Ontario] and he's been great to me. He was at a golf tournament that Cody Hodgson and I put on for flood relief for our hometown. We had a really bad flood. Wayde was sitting with us and he wanted to get this jersey for his daughter who is a big Bruins fan. She had been going through a difficult time at school with bullying. I wanted to donate back to the cause anonymously; I didn't want anyone to know. The bidding for the jersey got pretty high and it was past the amount that he wanted to pay so I told him I got the rest. We ended up getting the jersey for her. He asked me if he could tell people what I did. It was nice of him to help my image but he certainly didn't have to. I just enjoyed helping out [him] and his daughter.

KT: You recently met Luke Bryan at one of his concerts. Are you into music?

MD: I'm a huge music fan. My dad and I have a little band we like to play in the summer back home. He plays bass and I play acoustic guitar. I got a chance to meet Luke Bryan at a recent concert of his. I'm the country hookup on our team. I played "NHL 13" with Dierks Bentley on his bus. He's a huge hockey fan so it was pretty fun.

KT: Is your dog Paisley named after Brad Paisley?

MD: (laughs) Yes he is. He goes everywhere with me. My dog is my best friend. He's always with me and my girlfriend. We take him everywhere. We drove him to my hometown this past summer and I've never seen him so happy in his whole life spending time by the lake in Haliburton. He's a beauty.

KT: What's the story behind the "Teach Me How to Dutchy" T-shirt?

MD: I was approached by Sports Chirps to do a T-shirt to help raise money for the flood relief in my hometown. We came up with that idea together to show the between-the-legs goal. It's catchy and young. We have raised quite a bit of money, which is important to me.

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