Near the end of the 1850s, thousands of prospectors made their way to the Southern Rocky Mountains, part of present-day Colorado, in search of a
life-changing fortune during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush.
More than 160 years later, Colorado remains home to a large collection of gold – although now it all belongs to Matt Duchene.
At every event the Colorado Avalanche forward has tried his luck internationally, he has brought home gold. It hasn’t always been on his first try (only
most of the time), but eventually gold finds its way around his neck.
Ten times Duchene has worn the red and white of Team Canada – the 2016 World Cup of Hockey is his 11th appearance – and seven times the Haliburton, Ont.,
native has brought home the big prize.
So is success following Duchene, or does Duchene help create success?
“He’s been in the cross-hairs of the ‘go-to’ players since he was playing Midget and even before that,” says Doug Armstrong, Canada’s general manager at
the World Cup. “He’s always been comfortable being who he is on the ice and that’s what’s made him a high draft choice and a top NHL player.”
By the time he was selected No. 3 by the Avalanche in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Duchene already had three gold medals to his name, all won in an
eight-month span; with Ontario at the 2008 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, as an under-ager at the 2008 IIHF World U18 Championship, and at the 2008
Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament.
Not a bad start to his international career.
He added a Spengler Cup title in 2012 during the NHL lockout, an Olympic gold medal in 2014, and back-to-back IIHF World Championship gold medals in 2015
and 2016 (after unsuccessful trips to worlds in 2010, 2011 and 2013).
While being one of the fastest and most talented players on the ice has always helped Duchene crack Team Canada rosters, his commitment and attitude hasn’t
gone unnoticed; national team staff can see just how seriously he approaches the game.
But Duchene says it’s not a one-way street. While he puts in the work for Team Canada, Team Canada has put in the work to make his international
“One thing that has always been consistent is the standard that Hockey Canada brings,” Duchene says. “In terms of players and coaches, the way things are
taken care of for us is always first-class.
“To be around so many great people and to have had the chance to be along for the ride so many times just made it that much more exciting to have the
international success I’ve been able to have.”
From a nationally-televised gold medal game at U17s to the brightest lights in all of sports in Sochi, Duchene has gotten accustomed to the pressures and
expectations that come with wearing red and white.
It doesn’t hurt that he thrives on the big stage, and embraces his Team Canada opportunities.
“He’s a proven winner for Team Canada and someone I had the privilege to get to know a little bit over the years,” Armstrong says. “He’s someone who loves
to wear the Canadian jersey and takes great pride in playing for his country.”
“Just being named is always an honour,” Duchene says. “The first day you walk in [the locker room] and see that logo in your stall, it’s extremely special
and something I never take for granted.
“The cool part about Team Canada is that it’s incredibly hard to make the team, but once you’re on it you know that you’ve got a damn good chance at coming
away with a championship.”
But it’s not just the on-ice talents that have helped Duchene become a Team Canada mainstay, although those don’t hurt. Armstrong is quick to point out his
personality away from the rink.
While some players can be uncomfortable around team management, Duchene isn’t like that; he remains humble, approachable and easy to talk to.
“What we look for in players during this type of event is that the players’ personalities don’t change, and he’s one of those guys,” Armstrong says. “He’s
someone who has a very good balance on and off the ice and he turns it up when necessary.”
Turning it up is something Duchene is confident he can do to help Canada defend its World Cup title and add one of the few missing pieces to his
ever-growing trophy collection.
At the 2014 Olympics, Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock – who is back behind the bench at the World Cup – asked Duchene if he planned on sitting back and
watching the game, or if he was going to play.
While it was said as a joke, Duchene got the message loud and clear.
“I was trying to avoid being the reason we lost instead of playing to be the reason we could win,” he remembers. “Once he said that to me, it helped to
know that I could just go out there, be me, and play my game.”
This time around, Duchene is full of confidence and isn’t underestimating his abilities, and that can’t be good news for the rest of the hockey world.