The following article featuring former Yale standout Matt Cohen appeared on the Fife Flyers Web site.
The Fife Flyers 2011/12 Rapid Solicitors Elite Ice Hockey League debut season was certainly not one that will be forgotten by many. Despite a tough season both on and off the ice, the Elite League, and Fife Flyers made a lasting impression on former Flyers D-man Matt Cohen. The Fife faithful instantly took Matt to their hearts, and he was hero worshiped thanks to his leadership qualities, cool head, and calm play on the ice.
Matt had joined Fife Flyers during the summer having played the previous year in the German DEL with Hamburg Freezers, and his illustrious career also saw him ice for New Jersey Devils affiliates in the AHL with Lowell Devils, and ECHL with Trenton Devils. Some 465 games, and 140 points later Matt Cohen has called time on his ice hockey playing career and he has spoken about his decision to retire from the game he loves.
1) You obviously suffered a really bad concussion during your season last year, was this the main reason for your decision to retire?
It was a factor, but it was not the main reason. I have had a few concussions, and that can be scary because you never really know what long-term effects, if any, might result. I had been playing with a hip injury for the past four or five years that was actually much more of an issue than the concussion problem. I have a torn labrum and a bone-spur in my left hip, and when I would play the bone spur would rub against the hip bone and it wasn’t pleasant at all. I was taking all kinds of medication just to be able to play, and it was at the point where it was affecting my day-to-day life; I couldn’t go for run, train the way I wanted to in the gym, or do the things on the ice that I felt like I could or should do. No player wants to play in pain or feel like they can’t play the way they want to on the ice, but the real issue is that the bone spur wears away at the cartilage, and if you ruin your cartilage it cannot be replaced. This can lead to early onset arthritis in the hip, which often requires a hip replacement. I love hockey and with surgery I could probably have continued to play, but the risk of not being able to walk in 15 years was too great.
There were some health issues, but I had been thinking retirement even before I came to Fife. I loved playing, but it was clear to me that I wasn’t going to be able to play forever and that I was probably going to have to find a new career at some point. Hockey is great sport and has meant more to me than maybe anything else I have done in my life, but there is also a lot else out there in the world and I’m looking forward to a new challenge.
2) You have played in some very competitive leagues during your hockey career, what has been your most memorable moment?
It’s hard to say. It’s probably a little too soon to give you a good answer, but I can say that feel very fortunate in that I have had a lot of great experiences in hockey, and I have great memories from all the teams I’ve played with. What sticks out to me the most is how through hockey I have had the opportunity to meet so many good people that I otherwise would never have had the opportunity to meet. I have also loved getting the chance to live in, to experience and to learn about so many different places, countries and cultures.
Going to NHL training camp when I was with the Devils, getting to shoot on guys like Marty Brodeur and competing with the guys at that level was pretty special and probably the closest I ever came to the NHL. We also had some exhibition games with the Devils at the Prudential Center, and that was great to be a part of. Winning at world championships is another memory that sticks out. We won in OT against Canada on their home ice, and I have never heard a quieter arena in my life than that building after we scored. I don’t think that was the best hockey that I ever personally played, but it doesn’t get much better than representing your country against the best in the world and then hearing your anthem played at the end of the night.
3) How would you look back at your time in Fife? What are some of the memories you will take from your season?
I look back on my time in Fife fondly. The most poignant memory I have is when we played in Nottingham in our first game back after everything that happened toward the end of the season that year. We got a standing ovation before the game, which I had never seen before, and then the boys went out, battled and played an amazing game. We were undermanned, outmatched, and eventually ended up losing on an awful penalty shot call with under a minute left. But, it didn’t matter. We got another standing ovation after the game, and I just remember thinking how proud I was of the team for competing the way we did under the circumstances. It was one of those times when you realize that, in the scheme of things, hockey is not all that important, but it can and does have a real impact in people’s lives.
I also remember our first league win against Hull pretty clearly. I scored a short-handed goal, which was the first and only of my career, and Sids ended up tying the game with maybe 3 seconds left. We won in a shootout and the fans and the team went crazy. We needed that win, and I think so did the fans.
Finally, I also remember my last game against Edinburgh. It was special for me, of course, but it is also impossible to forget Franky Bakrlik fighting Jarolin, ripping his jersey off his back, and then waving it around his head and throwing it into the stands to our fans, who went nuts. That, too, was something I had never seen before.
4) You were almost an instant hero when you played in Fife, the fans of our team knew you were a stand out player, but there was also a huge amount of praise from fans from all over the league. How was it playing in front of the Flyers fans in such an old character ice rink?
Haha – that’s probably a bit of an overstatement, but I appreciate the sentiment. For me, playing in that rink was a love-hate relationship. I loved how loud it can get in the arena and how close the fans are to the game. It gave the rink an intimate atmosphere, and sometimes you would get the fans and opposing players actually yelling back in forth to one another, which was pretty comical. It’s almost like taking a time machine back to the 80’s every time you player there, and that can be pretty cool. On the other hand, I was not a fan of the plexi-glass situation. In my opinion, there definitely should be plexi-glass around the whole rink, as not having it really affects the game. That said, the glass and the boards behind the net are far too hard and probably caused a few injuries that could have been avoided.
5) What do you plan do now you have retired from ice hockey?
I just began the first year of a three-year JD/MBA (law and business) program at Northwestern University in Chicago. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do long-term, but I really like the flexibility that I’ll get from having both a law and business education. Plus, Mr. Muir was never too impressed with my undergraduate degree, so I figured I should try to bolster my resume a bit in that area. Just kidding.
I would just like to say thank you to the fans for all the support, it meant a great deal to me. I really enjoyed my time in Scotland, and it will be something that I cherish for a long time. Now that I am done playing, I think back on this final year often. I would also like to wish the players still in Fife the best of luck this season. I have been following the team from afar and so far it looks like the team is doing fantastic.