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Matt Read's nostalgic return to Bemidji State brought back fond memories

Feb. 7—In a Sanford Center suite packed with Bemidji State men's hockey alumni, Matt Read sat in the front row.

He took in a rare chance to return to Bemidji after a nine-year professional hockey career. As he watched the Beavers take on Augustana last Saturday, he noticed a couple of BSU fans wearing a No. 19 jersey with his name on the back.

"It's an honor," Read said. "When I came here, I didn't know much about college hockey. I absolutely loved every minute of it. I spent my summers here working on campus and training, enjoying the small town. I was blessed with my NHL career, and Bemidji was a wonderful place for me to build that. To still be recognized by people wearing my jersey, it's an honor."

Read played for the Beavers from 2007-11, amassing 65 goals and 77 assists in 147 games played. He was named alternate captain during his junior year before being selected as team captain for his final collegiate season.

Read parlayed his near-point-per-game production at Bemidji State into a nine-year professional career in North America. He was signed as a free agent out of college by the Philadelphia Flyers organization, where he played for seven seasons before returning to Minnesota to play for the Wild in 2018-19.

In 449 NHL games, Read scored 88 goals and assisted on 100 more. He also played in the AHL with the Adirondack Phantoms, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Iowa Wild and the Toronto Marlies.

Now, Read spends his time in Stillwater with his wife and three kids, working part time as a handyman while enjoying a quieter post-hockey life.

"I have a friend who owns his own construction business," Read said. "I told him whenever he needs a hand to give me a call. I work about 20, maybe 30 hours a week, and I enjoy it.

"I have a 20-acre piece of land in Stillwater with horses. I spend my time making sure the fences are right and feeding the animals, keeping the house together. It's a lot more work than I ever expected, but I enjoy every minute of it."

Read's return trips to Bemidji have been few and far between, and his latest was nearly derailed by winter sickness.

"I haven't come up here too much; I've just been busy with my career and stuff," Read said. "I'm just excited to be back up here this weekend. My three kids are sick, and we canceled all of our plans. I told my wife, 'You know what? I'm going.' I drove up, and it was pretty surreal just to walk into the arena with a chill in my spine, looking at where it all started. I call this place my second home."

Beavers head coach Tom Serratore recruited Read out of Ilderton, Ontario. When he arrived on campus in 2007, Read quickly understood what Bemidji State hockey was all about.

As he took in a BSU game from a different perspective than the one he had as a player, Read saw the same identity in the program that molded him into an NHL player.

"Tom has been here for 23 years now," Read said. "He has the mentality to get the best out of everybody that shows up and puts that jersey on. When I played, we weren't the most skilled team, but we were going to outwork every other team. Every night was a war once you put that jersey on."

Read joined the dozens of former Beavers on the ice during the second intermission for the Alumni Night celebration. He couldn't hide the ear-to-ear grin on his face, even if he tried.

"Not many faces have turned over here in Bemidji," Read said. "It's a small town, and you see all of the familiar faces and a lot of people you haven't seen in a long time. Seeing the coaches again, seeing (associate head coach) Travis Winter, who was my linemate for a long time, all of the alumni that are here for the game, it's what it's all about. The smiles and the memories always come back."