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Puempel preparing for 2019-20 hockey season

by Sylene Argent

There really is not a whole lot of time for professional hockey players to hang up their skates, even during the summer’s off-season.

  During the warmer months, Essex’s Matthew Puempel, who is not only known for his on-ice skill but also his generous nature, has spent some time visiting family and friends in the area after he participates in daily off-season skates as part of the Grand Rapid Griffins, while under contract with the Detroit Red Wings.

  Puempel said he enjoys spending time in his hometown of Essex every summer to visit with family and the friends he grew up with.

  Puempel said he has enjoyed getting back into routine with his team, as summer winds down as he likes getting to play the sport he loves for a living. Formal training will pick-up on the 12th, he noted.

  Loving the sport was not always easy for the left-winger.

  “I started skating when I was three. I only wanted to play because my brother played. By the time I was five, I was playing in Essex Minor Hockey and wanted to play pro for a living. It’s worked out so far,” he said humbly.  

  To date, his most memorable moment at the professional level took place when he scored his first NHL hat trick. Off ice, a memory of which he is also fond includes being drafted into the NHL in 2011. Ottawa drafted the local athlete 24th overall.

  Puempel said gaining experience makes an athlete better, with more knowledge of the game. This leads to more confidence and strength on the ice, which enables athletes to know what to do in a play during a game in addition to dealing with the business-side of the profession.

  Remembering what it was like to look up to his hockey heroes when he was a kid, Puempel said he tries to give back as much as he can. Just a few weeks ago, he participated in a tournament in Tecumseh that raised around $9000 for cancer research with a few other professional athletes. Puempel and other professional hockey players had teams in the fundraiser.

  When speaking to youths who aspire to follow in his footsteps to the AHL and NHL, Puempel said the biggest thing is to have fun every day. Athletes have a tendency to want to rush to get to the next level, but he suggests enjoying being able to play for your hometown. He also suggested youths should take a break from the sport during the summer months so they do not burnout, which could make them stop playing for the reasons that made them want to lace up their skates in the first place.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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