Episode S1E18. The Ivan Matulik Interview.
In this episode I interview former Sheffield Steelers, Edinburgh Racers, Cardiff Devils and Manchester Storm forward Ivan Matulik
Ivan now lives in Vancouver, Canada but was born in the late 1960’s in Czechoslovakia, which at that time was a Communist country, with the State controlling everything, including communication and travel.
He was contacted, out of the blue, to be told that he had been selected in round 7 (147th overall) of the 1986 draft, by the then 2 time Stanley Cup Ice hockey Champions, the Edmonton Oilers.
Ivan made up his mind to follow his dream and with the help of an intermediary slipped out of the country and made his way to Canada, in effect he had defected to the West.
Having landed in Edmonton Ivan may have been forgiven for thinking that his problems were now over, however he was soon brought back down to earth with a bump, as Ivan explains in the Podcast:
“I was dropped off at the hotel, I was alone, in a foreign country and couldn’t speak a word of English”
The Oilers enrolled him in a language course and Ivan, with the help of TV and music, was soon able to communicate with the locals and more importantly, his team mates.
During the next four seasons the Oilers went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1987, 88 and 90. Unfortunately the talent of their team meant that Ivan was consigned to the farm team.
“They had stars right through from first to fourth line and I didn’t get a look in”
After battling back from a serious knee injury and having the tip of his nose sewed back on after an accident with an opponent’s stick, he decided to try his luck in Europe. After spending a few weeks in Edinburgh with good friend and former Oilers D Man Mike Ware, new Steeler’s coach Alex Dampier signed him for the Sheffield team.
In only his second Steelers game he found himself against fierce rivals the Panthers in Nottingham and he was about to learn about the teams fierce rivalry very quickly that night.
“One of their younger players ran me, caught me off guard, I may have had a concussion as I was skating around in a daze for most of the game.
But from that game on I knew I wanted to stay and play in the UK, the passion of the fans and players was just phenominal”
The following season he moved back to Edinburgh for a season with the Racers before beginning a love affair with the city of Cardiff and the Devils.
Ivan spent the next 6 seasons in Cardiff and was a part of the team that won the inaugural SuperLeague Championship. ‘It’s still one of my proudest moments,’ he says.
Ivan would probably have stayed with the Devils for the rest of his hockey career had the Devils not suffered severe financial problems that put them into liquidation in 2002 and sent Ivan north to join the Manchester Storm, signing on as captain for head coach Daryl Lipsey’s team.
As Daryl told me
“Ivan was a super guy and a very good leader and captain. We had a team which was under achieving but Ivan kept the team going in tough circumstances, he’s a guy I had a lot of time for”
Although finishing bottom of the league table, the Storm rallied for the playoffs, made it to the final and with just 3 minutes to go were 3-2 up over the Sheffield Steelers.
However Ivan and his team were left broken hearted as the Steelers leveled the scores and eventually took the Playoff Trophy on penalties.
With just 6 games into the 2002-2003 season the Manchester Storm were forced to fold and Ivan was once again looking for a new team, finding it in his beloved Cardiff, with the newly formed, British National League (BNL) Cardiff Devils.
More upheaval was to follow at the end of that season with the SuperLeague itself collapsing and being replaced by the current UK Ice Hockey set up, the Elite League, with Ivan and the new Devils taking up their rightful place as founder members.
Fast forward two years and after a season in Cardiff and a brief spell with Varese HC in the Italian “A” League, Ivan decided that his love for playing the game had gone and he made the decision to “pack it in and call it a career”.
These days Ivan works in the car sales industry as a sales manager for a large Ford dealership in British Columbia.
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