“There’s only so many things you can control, especially in hockey, so, I think I’ve just kind of focused on going at it with a positive attitude,” Matthew Jenkins said. It’s how he’s stayed positive throughout the challenges he’s faced through the years.
Jenkins is currently a part-time goalie coach with the Carleton Ravens men’s hockey team, while also working as a goalie coach for the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL), some minor hockey league teams, and CCM.
Jenkins grew up in Prince Edward Island (PEI), and credits his start in hockey to the fact that it was a sport that everyone was doing, and that his friends were starting to play.
“Back then it was just kind of something that everyone did, so when I got to a certain age, all my friends were starting to play, and I jumped in, and I started as a forward and we all took turns as goalie for one game each,” Jenkins said.
Once Jenkins experienced what it was like to play in net, he made the decision to become a goalie and never stepped foot at centre ice again.
“When I had my turn, I remember the glove and blocker we had were the wrong hand for me, so I’d use hockey gloves, and I almost caught a puck. I didn’t catch it but I almost caught it, and from then on, I always wanted to be a goalie, so, I don’t think I ever played another shift of forward after that,” Jenkins said.
Prior to his stint at Carleton, Jenkins played for the Brockville Braves, the Smiths Falls Bears, and the Cornwall Colts of the CCHL.
During his time with the Braves, Jenkins appeared in 49 career games. He said that some of his best times came with the Braves due to his team having a lot of success, and him having a really good career there.
“We had a really good team that year and the year after, for my two years there, and I still go back there and see some of the guys once in a while for little reunions,” Jenkins said.
Following his time in Brockville, Jenkins played for the Smiths Falls Bears in the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL), CCHL, and the Central Hockey League (CHL) T1, and the Cornwall Colts in the CHL T1 and the CCHL.
“In Smiths Falls I think we had one of the tightest groups ever. We actually joked that we call ourselves the Smiths Falls Ravens here, because we have five or six guys that played on that team, we had Tyler Akeson, Connor McLaren, Michael McNamee, myself, and Ryan Van Stralen, so we just joke around that everyone had to go through there to come here,” Jenkins said about his time on the Bears.
“In Cornwall, same kind of thing, had a good time, we went to the finals back to back, never ended up winning, but it brings you pretty close as a group when you go that far, especially twice in a row with almost the same group,” Jenkins added.
Following his time with the Colts, Jenkins made his way over to Carleton for the 2014-15 season, and while there, took Law as an undergrad, with a concentration in Business Law.
“There were a lot of guys that I’ve played with in the CJHL, like Mitch Zion and McNamee, they were kind of the big factors in me coming, just seeing the success they were having,” Jenkins said about his decision to come to Carleton.
While playing for the Ravens, Jenkins got the opportunity to travel to Europe in his second year, and then, while recovering from a broken thumb that same year, the team made it to the U Sports Nationals.
“It brings you so close to the team it feels like you’ve been a full team for a year already by the time you get back, so, I think that not only do we get to see a little bit of the world, but it also brought us so close as a team,” Jenkins said about the team’s experience in Europe.
While he doesn’t miss the aspect of playing so much, Jenkins has said he misses the locker room camaraderie the most.
“The good thing about what I do now is that I still get that a lot of times because I’m here everyday, so I still get to joke around with the guys, and have the times in the room,” Jenkins said.
Since the start of this year, Jenkins has been helping coach the Ravens’ netminders, Francois Brassard, Justin Nichols, and Tory Martyniuk.
“When they mentioned that they were looking for a guy, I offered my help as much as I possibly could. And for the amount of stuff that they’ve done for me over the past four years, I just felt I had to give something back in some way,” Jenkins said.
Throughout his career, Jenkins has faced many challenges and adversities to bring himself to the positive mentality he uses in his coaching.
“One of the big challenges that I had to face, especially in my first couple years here, was understanding the fact that you may not play a lot. So, in the first little bit it kind of makes you a bit sour and it doesn’t really sit well, but then once you learn to adapt and understand your role, then its more about keeping other people happy too,” Jenkins said.
“So, especially in situations like this where it’s a short playoff series, if you have one person in the room that’s a really negative influence, that really drags down the whole group. So, you need to be really careful about how you conduct yourself and how you carry yourself,” he added.
What has made him stronger, though, is the positive mentality Jenkins has had about these challenges.
“Some of the best lessons I’ve learned is just from being part of a team that’s so competitive because you’re held accountable for everything you do,” Jenkins said.
This accountability mentality is something that Jenkins has preached countless times over to the players he has come across in coaching.
“You can only do things on your own until a certain level. And this is probably the cut off for that, so, when you’re in school you’re not only on the team, you’re with the guys in class, and you’re living with them. So, I think just the accountability factor, is you have to be a good guy all the time because you quickly get weeded out at this level if the coaching staff and the players in the room don’t like you,” Jenkins said about the message he lives by.
“So, it comes down to just having that accountability, and that respect for your teammates, and trying to be a good teammate, and that’s really what I’ve focused on most,” he added.
As for the future, Jenkins hopes that he can stay on as goalie coach as long as the coaching staff will have him.
“In terms of coaching, I think this is a great stepping stone. Just being around Vanner (Shaun Van Allen), and Cavvy (Marc Cavallin), and Joe (Joey Manley), and even Wales (Jeremy Whalen), the video guy, being around them every day I just try to be a sponge and soak up as much as I possibly can, because they have so much more hockey knowledge that I could ever dream of,” Jenkins said.
“I’d like to be here for as long as they have me back and as long as the coaching staff is the same as it is,” he added,
“So, I think I’m just going to use this to gain as much possible knowledge as I can, and then if it takes me somewhere else, then it takes me somewhere else.”