On the ice, Matt Dumba prowls the blue line with the ferocity of a jungle cat, lining up opponents before pouncing and delivering punishing body checks. He not only lays down volatile hits, the defenseman has a heavy shot and quick release, traits you might not expect from a player listed at 6-foot and 185-pounds.
The day after picking the blueliner with the 7th overall pick at the NHL Entry Draft in June, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher summed up his style of play with one word: explosive.
However, after speaking with Dumba for a few moments, you’ll realize the bombastic way in which he plays on the ice is a far cry from the way he carries himself off of it.
One NHL analyst said he has ‘tremendous leadership’ and ‘is a captain in waiting.’ Twice, representing Canada at Under-18 tournaments, Dumba has been named team captain.
Dumba is young enough to still be described as precocious, as he turns 18 later this month, but has a calm, yet, infectious personality that was easy to latch onto on draft night. After being picked by the Wild in the first round, the defenseman’s smile was contagious as he hugged the line of family members supporting him at the draft.
Lessons in Life
The leadership qualities the draft analyst spoke about were instilled in Dumba at a young age by his parents, Treena and Charlie.
His mother, who is Filipino, grew up as one of nine adopted children.
“She had eight brothers and sisters all different nationalities,” Dumba said. “First Nation, Jamaican, Chinese, white, everything.”
The diversity on his mother’s side helped him recognize the character of an individual, not to base or judge by appearance. His father, who has Romanian heritage, also helped drill home lessons in respect.
“My dad is a big advocate in respecting others and treating people the way you want to be treated,” Dumba said. “You treat them with respect and common courtesy and you’ll get that respect back.”
Passion On Ice
Along with instilling life lessons, Dumba’s parents helped nurture his passion for the game of hockey. Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, his family moved to Calgary, Alberta when he was young. It was in Calgary where his father built an outdoor rink (ODR as Dumba refers to it) for him and his younger brother Kyle, a 14-year-old goaltender.
When asked about the ODR, the defenseman is transported back, grin widening to the smile that was so often frozen on his face for hours at a time on the family outdoor rink.
“My dad made it every year,” Dumba recalled. “It gradually went from banks of snow to actual boards and netting around everything.”
The three-on-three pickup games between he and his friends would go well into the dark Alberta night thanks to another add on to the rink: floodlights. An addition that thrilled the skaters, but the neighbors, well, they had a different outlook.
“We’d go late,” Dumba laughed. “The neighbors would eventually call the house, and if we didn’t stop, call the police and we’d get noise complaints.
“We’d shut it down and be back out there at 6:30 or 7 o’clock in the morning.”
While Dumba and his pals got some rest for the following day, his father would work tirelessly to keep the ice surface fresh for the hockey-enamored boys.
“My dad was out there constantly flooding it; four or five times a night to make sure it was perfect for us in the morning,” Dumba said. “He’d set alarms during the night to go out and flood.”
While his mother might have been upset that Charlie was spending more time working outside the house than in it, Treena was always there to make sure the boys were taken care of during the marathon stretches of pond hockey.
“She was always bring us out waters and throwing them out in the snow banks and snacks at intermissions,” Dumba said.
To watch Dumba skate at Wild Development Camp, it is easy to see that the lessons his parents taught him, along with the love for hockey that was nurtured on the family outdoor rink, will be with him for life.
“It’s a passion,” Dumba said. “I love it.”