Overview: Richard Matvichuk was drafted #8 overall by the Minnesota North Stars in 1991 and made his NHL debut the following season, playing in 53 games his rookie year before the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993. Matvichuk would go on to play 11 seasons with the Stars in Dallas, much of that time spent paired with team captain Derian Hatcher. Never one to put up big offensive numbers, Matvichuk was key in building the Stars as one of the best defensive teams in the NHL and exemplified everything that defined Dallas Stars hockey during that time.
Why He's On The List: When we think back to all of the great teams and great players that passed through Dallas there are some players that instantly come to mind: Modano. Zubov. Lehtinen. Hatcher. Belfour. Turco. We reference these players constantly, even during our current analysis, as we continue to compare current teams and players to those from the past. It's unfortunate that some players are then overlooked and as time has passed, it seems to have happened with Matvichuk -- a great defenseman for the Stars for over a decade who rarely gets mentioned when discussing the "glory years."
More on Matvichuk after the jump....
Matvichuk was never one to put up big numbers, with his best offensive season coming in 1999-2000 when he put up 25 points in 70 games. Instead, Matvichuk was focused on one thing and one thing only: playing defense and playing incredibly physical defense. Matvichuk, under the tutelage of Craig Ludwig, became one of the premier shot blocking specialists in the NHL and did so without suffering much injury. \
What also stands out is just how little Matvichuk was penalized over the course of his career, despite his aggressive and physical style, which showcases just how truly skilled he was as a defenseman. Many of his tactics would certainly be penalized in today's NHL, but Matvichuk was never a head-hunting defenseman that would rather take out a forward than play the puck -- he was just a big, physical defenseman who did nearly everything the right way and rarely made mistakes.
Derian Hatcher, Matvichuk's defensive partner for so many years, gets a lot of attention as one of the best defensemen to play for this franchise yet it must be noted he wouldn't have been nearly as successful with Matvichuk by his side -- and vice versa. There's was a special relationship that extended beyond the rink, a friendship built on shared interests (namely motorcycles) and an incredible chemistry on the ice. They two complimented each other perfectly, with Hatcher playing the role of the Keeper Of The Crease with Matvichuk more than willing to put his body on the line in order to make a game-changing shot block in the slot.
On a personal note....I'll never forget the day my family was out at the Dallas Boat Show and we were standing up on a platform looking at an exhibit. Matvichuk and Hatcher walk by and instantly I was struck by just how big they were, these two larger-than-life hockey heroes who were enjoying a day off together. It was a humanizing moment for me and I'll never forget how I felt, as a kid, locking eyes with Matvichuk and seeing just how nice his eyes were when they looked at me. Something that sticks with me to this day.
Matvichuk was never the flashiest player or the loudest. He wasn't a rah-rah leader on the ice. He was a relatively quiet guy when compared to Hatcher, Modano, Hull and company. But he was a constant presence of consistency for so long on this team, a proven veteran with years of top-notch hockey under his belt. He never was considered for an award, he was never even considered the best defenseman on his team -- or even the second-best. Yet Matvichuk was everything that made the Stars great and exemplified that in how he played the game. Hard work, tenacity and a never-give up attitude that easily spread to the rest of the team.
Highlights of Matvichuk's career are hard to come by, so I've decided to show his lone goal from the 1999 Cup playoffs, in Game 6 against the Colorado Avalanche. While it didn't win the game, it certainly put the game out of reach with the Stars facing elimination on the road.
You can see the goal at 17:40 of the following video.