Stefan Matteau after scoring his first NHL goal in February (The Associated Press)
Well, what is father to say in these situations? Two weeks ago, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada ignited a firestorm by washing their hands of New Jersey Devils first-round choice Stefan Matteau midway through their QMJHL semifinal series vs. the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. (The teams would soon change the channel in rather unconventional fashion.) Matteau and his former-NHLer father, Armada assistant coach Stéphane Matteau, made no public comment at that time, allowing a narrative that portrayed B-B coach Jean-François Houle and GM Joël Bouchard as disciplinarians to form.
Wednesday, the elder Matteau broke the family's silence by speaking to Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice). Matteau's contention is his 19-year-old son was singled out by the team due to his status as a returnee from the NHL and was released "for just a shouting match."
Stephane, an Armada assistant coach, said his son let his emotion get the best of him and expressed his displeasure with being benched in a heated exchange with Houle after the game. Although Stephane acknowledged that Stefan made “a mistake,” he said he did not agree with the decision of Houle and GM/owner Joel Bouchard, to release him immediately after the game.
“They released him on emotion and emotion only,” Stephane Matteau said. “In the semifinals, he got speared and he retaliated — it’s a hockey play — and they decided to sit him out the whole third period of a 1-1 game. Emotionally, he let the coach know it was unfair the way he was treated for that moment and they went at it verbally and they kicked him off (the team) five minutes after the game.”
... Stephane does not believe his son was treated the same way as other players on the Armada.
“They wanted to set him as an example for the rest of the group,” he said. “When you’re in the spotlight — there’s a lot of guys that would take more penalties than he did — but they were waiting for the next mistake. Emotion took part on both sides. … I’ve never seen an organization releasing a guy five minutes after a game. It’s very, very, very disappointing. I’m very disappointed and I didn’t go back to work the next day. I did not go to work the next day. I did not interfere, but I did not agree with what happened.”
" ... There’s a lot worse cases than that in any organization that you have players (that are not released) — I don’t want to go into detail — but (Stefan was released) for just a shouting match." (Fire & Ice)
Make of what you will. It's arguable that perhaps Bouchard and Houle should have imposed a '24-hour rule' before deciding how to address the verbal outburst from one of their players. At the very least, this might throw doubt on earlier reports that Stefan Matteau quit his team in the middle of a playoff series, which is beyond the pale.
It's not the first time a touted teenager on the NHL bubble has quarreled with his junior team. How young players deal with a stressful situation and how the authority figures react to it isn't viewed as a two-way street, but it ought to be in certain instances.
One can debate whether this was one of them until training camp next season. Consider the mindset of Bouchard and Houle on April 20, when Stefan Matteau played his last game for B-B. They had just lost a chippy, tense game to the rival Baie-Comeau Drakkar to go down 2-0 in a series. There was probably pressure from up top to win the series. Matteau, one of their biggest assets, had taken an undisciplined penalty that led to a decisive goal. They had already tried earlier in the season to get him to toe the line by suspending him for a check from behind; it is easy enough to work the Google on the Internet machine and find instances where Matteau showed selfishness on the ice by taking liberties with opponents, according to the hockey code.
Benching a frontline player is one of hockey's time-honoured tests. Does he lash out, go into a mope or learn from it? Stefan Matteau, by his father's admission, erred by taking the first of those options. Bouchard and Houle, who's always been a disciplinarian, made an agonizing reappraisal of the whole situation, rightly or wrongly.
Matteau Jr. is eligible for the AHL next season; his father is not sure whether he will return to the Armada. More from Gulitti:
The test for Stefan is to learn from this incident and make sure it doesn’t negatively impact the rest of his career. Stefan called Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello after he was released to tell him what happened and is now getting ready to attend the team’s development camp in July and training camp in September.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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