Duchene hungry to extend busy season

Personal milestones, giving back to his community and a new pup have had Matt Duchene busy on and around the rink amid a successful first season with the Dallas Stars.

Duchene hungry to extend busy season

Feature photo: Getty Images

Whether it was a personal milestone, hometown philanthropy, the puppy life or the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs it has been a season to remember for Matt Duchene.

Although it has been one of the busiest years of his life both on and off the ice, Duchene, playing in his 15th NHL campaign and first with the Dallas Stars, is relishing every moment.

“All and all, it has been great, hockey-wise and away from the rink too.”

Part of the madness off the ice includes a new addition to the Duchene home an English Cocker Spaniel by the name of Merle.

“Definitely a lot on the go,” said Duchene with a laugh.  

The 33-year-old centre signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars on July 1 after four seasons with the Nashville Predators.

Duchene fit in quickly with his new club and has played a significant role in helping the Stars clinch the Central Division.

“We are very well-balanced, and we roll four lines. Selflessness is something we talked about right at the start of the season. ‘A little less for a lot more’ has been our team motto.

“We have a flag in our room that says that on it and everyone signed it at the beginning of the year everyone has bought into that. It’s what has given us the opportunity to be where we are at.”

Playing in all but two games this season, Duchene scored 25 goals and posted 64 points as of April 15. With one game left on the schedule, he’s placed fifth on the team in scoring.

“We are tough to play against because you never know which line or lines are going. We’re tough to match up against and we come at you all game long there is never a shift where there is a lull. It’s a special group on and off the ice.”

A season of numerous highs also included skating in his 1,000th NHL game on Dec. 7 on the road in Washington.

Dubbed “Mr. 1K” by his teammates, who printed the nickname on his coffee cup, Duchene was joined by two of his three kids and wife, Ashley, along with his parents and in-laws for the milestone game.

Duchene’s son, Beau, read out the Stars' starting lineup in a video that made the rounds on social media.

“My son reading the starting lineup was probably the best moment of my life, to be honest. My dad and him doing that together before the game I should go back and watch that video again. I watched it about 100 times that week and I couldn’t get over how special it was.

“It was cool because I got to celebrate it [the milestone] twice. The day of, which was in Washington, we had my parents in, and my wife’s family was also there, so that was very special.”

As it was when Duchene was feted on home ice on Jan. 27.

“Right before the bye week, we had the celebration game in Dallas. The team gave me the silver stick and the boys gave me a watch. The team also provided a suite for my family.

“I had a ton of friends come in for the game and my wife put on an unbelievable celebration after the game. The number of people who showed up was incredible.”

It turned out to be a win-win for everyone.

“We won both games one in a shootout and one in overtime. That was the cherry on top.”

Now, Duchene is hoping for the icing on the cake.

His last shot at winning the Stanley Cup came in 2021-22.

“I have never been part of anything like this. Every time I have been on a team that has made the playoffs, other than one time, has been the eighth seed.

“To have a chance to be number one in the division and number one in the conference is special. This team has earned it. A lot of guys have given up ice time and personal statistics to buy into the team because of how deep we are.”

Even in the busiest of times, Duchene has found a way to stay connected to his roots in his hometown of Haliburton, Ontario a tourist and cottage spot about a three-hour drive north of Toronto.

He has been a staunch supporter of the local charity Food for Kids a nonprofit student nutrition program designed to benefit the youth of Haliburton County’s public schools through food and nutrition programming.

Earlier this year, Duchene, along with Food for Kids, created a fundraiser that included a pair of tickets to see the Dallas Stars face off against the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa, a pair of No. 95 jerseys which he signed in a meet-and-greet after the game, along with various gift cards.

“They do such great work and run programs at the school. Aaron Walker, who runs it, does an awesome job.

“Our community is very special, and it means a lot to me. It is a very humble community. Every now and again, people need a little bit of help, and I’m happy to support the people in my hometown.”

Bringing the Stanley Cup to Haliburton would be the ultimate thank you for Duchene. 

For now, his focus is on getting to the playoffs on a high note and keeping the momentum rolling in the postseason.

“You can’t ever say that it is Stanley Cup or bust because it is so hard to win that trophy, but we want to give ourselves the best chance to win the championship. So far, we have done that and now we have to do it for the next two-plus months.”    

“I couldn’t have come to a better organization and team. It’s been a blessing.

“As great as a year it has been we knew coming into camp what the end goal was and what we were capable of we want to live up to that.”