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Inked With Meaning

by Katlyn Gambill / Minnesota Wild

Family is everything to Matt Dumba. The evidence is inked all over the Minnesota Wild defenseman’s body.

The blueliner has a plethora of tattoos, many of which honor family members. Some serve as reminders of painful memories, while others bring on smiles.

His first was a dragonfly, “manly” he claimed. Like many of his marks, there is a story running deeper than the thin layer of ink on his skin.

At his maternal grandmother’s funeral, there was a dragonfly buzzing around him and his cousins. Soon after, the dragonfly landed on her urn.

“[It has] crazy symbolism,” Dumba said. “So whenever I see that I think of her.”

However, the dragonfly tattoo didn’t land in an easy spot on his body.

“The guy thought I was pretty crazy getting my first tattoo on my ribs,” Dumba said. “It’s a pretty spicy spot.”

Nevertheless, the 21-year-old claimed his first tattoo set him up for a higher threshold of pain when it came to future skin art. Now, he has more than 15 symbolic memories inked on his body.

Spend a few minutes with Dumba and it becomes very obvious how influential his family is on his life. The numbers “403” are inked on his forearm, as a reference to his hometown of Calgary, Alberta.

An eagle with a “family” banner clutched in its talons flies across his chest. He claimed it’s one of his favorites.

“Whatever heights that I fly to, wherever I go, they’re always in my heart and [I’m] always taking them with me,” Dumba said. “Hopefully the sky’s the limit.”

The eagle isn’t the lone bird to provide symbolism: a small chickadee rests atop a large rose on the defenseman’s forearm as a nod to his paternal grandmother.

His grandmother’s garden had birdhouses and the chickadee was the main bird always buzzing around. With the meaningful tattoo, his mind flutters to his grandmother each time he looks down at his forearm.

Tattoo imagery of birds or flowers are often used to trigger romantic or nostalgic feelings, but the illustration on Dumba’s inner forearm would seem an odd choice for most people as a sentimental tattoo: a cribbage hand.

Matt and his younger brother, Kyle, learned how to play the card game from their grandma — playing cribbage has since become a family tradition.

“We play it all the time, every chance, when I’m back home,” Dumba said. He added that Kyle always draws huge hands, which of course leads to some great competition.

While many of the blueliners tattoos are from singular events or relate to his immediate family, one of his most recent additions has a wider reach. Dumba has a cancer ribbon near his elbow in honor of several people close to him, including his grandparents.

“There’s so many people affected by it,” Dumba said. “Hopefully just talking like this can raise some awareness. And for me, it’s touched me in a lot of ways.

“I always want to contribute [by] donating, trying to help, go to hospitals, trying to cheer people up in those situations.”

So what piece of art is next for the young tattoo connoisseur?

“I’ve got some ideas,” Dumba said. “But I’ll keep those locked up and maybe we’ll have to do this again next year.

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