BOSTON – For many young hockey players, weekends are consumed by early morning car rides to the rink across town. The relentless rise-and-grind schedule, with endless carpool rotations, is something many hockey parents know all too well. Ice hockey, like many other sports, requires sacrifice and dedication, especially for aspiring players who are determined to excel at the next level. Behind every dented garage door frame and fractured street hockey goal, there is a player perfecting their slap-shot. Under every cross bar there is a netminder mastering their butterfly. Inside every overtime goal celebration, there is a kid dreaming of, one day, playing in the National Hockey League.
The professional hockey dream inches closer to a reality for forward Matt Filipe, who signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins on August 16th, after having been originally drafted in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. The 6’2″, 205lb left-winger is more than just familiar with the Bruins’ organization – the Lynnfield, Massachusetts native has been cheering on the Black & Gold his entire life.
“Watching them win the Stanley Cup in 2011 was one of the highlights of my childhood,” Filipe said about his time growing up in Boston. “It’s nice being from a city that’s been so successful with their sports teams, including the Bruins…Growing up going to Bruins games and being around the atmosphere of the city and in the Garden was something I always loved and have always dreamed of playing for the Bruins in the Garden.”
Matt attended Malden Catholic from 2012 to 2015, where he tallied 50 points in 58 games, reaching the Super 8 MIAA Division Championship all three years.
“It was so fun to play there for three years and playing at the Garden, winning two championships there and making it to a third,” Matt said when reflecting on his high school years. “It was so fun and having the school rallying behind us and the group of guys we had, we had so much talent on my team my freshman and sophomore year…it was really like a brotherhood over there.”
Filipe committed to Northeastern University after his sophomore year of high school, however; following his junior year in Malden, Massachusetts, a tough decision approached: to graduate high school near home and stay for one more year in Boston, or to venture out to Iowa to play for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the United States Hockey League.
Leaving friends, family, and teammates behind is not an easy request, especially for a 17-year-old kid.
“The coaching staff at Malden Catholic, my family, and [the head coach] from Cedar Rapids [knew] that the step for me after my junior year would be to move out to [Iowa]” Matt explained. “I think it was one of the best decisions of my life…That’s one of those sacrifices that just needed to be made in order for me to develop as a player and be ready to start as a true freshman at Northeastern.”
Filipe admitted that being away from Beantown during his time in Iowa was a difficult experience for him, but there were other factors that helped ease the adjustment.
“I got a bit homesick. I think, the one thing about the USHL is you’ve got a bunch of guys who are all in the same shoes as you, bunch of high school kids who are all leaving home for the first time,” Matt said. “I think everyone the first month probably was kind of missing home a little bit…everyone starts to get used to it and bonds really well.”
Lucky for Matt, a piece of home followed him out west.
“My roommate was also a Massachusetts guy, so him and I were able to watch a lot of Patriots games together. [We] were able to keep that Boston feel between us. All the way out there in Iowa, we were always still cheering for the Bruins, Pats, Red Sox – whatever it was. So, it was cool to have my roommate be from Massachusetts and to go through that experience with him.”
The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders hoisted the Anderson Cup in 2016, grabbing the league title. Matt compiled 36 regular season points in 56 games that season.
Filipe went on to play at Northeastern from 2016 to 2020, serving as the Assistant Captain his senior year. He tallied 75 points in 136 games, collecting three consecutive Beanpot championships along the way.
The Road Ahead
Following the initial Covid-19 pandemic pause, many athletes have just recently returned to their training facilities to shake off the rust built up from their time in quarantine. Filipe got back to work at an outdoor gym facility in early June where he was able to resume his strength and conditioning, but it wasn’t until weeks later that he managed to tie the laces back up and hit the ice.
“I started skating a couple weeks ago in Middleton, Massachusetts. It’s still kind of crazy with the rinks around here and some of the guidelines are still pretty strict,” Matt said. “I’m just trying to make the most of it right now.”
Matt is looking forward to returning to the ice in full swing to continue his work with Bruins’ Skating and Skill Coach Kim Brandvold.
“I’ve been skating with him my entire life. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to get back on the ice with him,” Matt said. “Until then I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing my whole career and try and get better in the off-season.”
“It will be nice to take advantage of some of the more time off and get better as a player, get bigger and stronger and faster,” Filipe continued. “I just want to try and get better everyday, and little by little, make strides to hopefully play in the NHL next year.”