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Battling Back: Veteran Defenceman Pelech Perserves Through Injuries

Originally published in 4th 2010-11 edition of BLAZE.

Hockey, like life, sometimes is all about getting the bounces. Abbotsford Heat defenseman Matt Pelech
knows all about bounces. Drafted 26th overall by the Calgary Flames in 2005, Pelech faced injuries
throughout the rest of his junior career, even breaking his jaw twice.

Pelech battled back, and in April 2009, he got his big break. Due to a slew of injuries in Calgary, he was
summoned to help fill the void. Pelech delivered, contributing three assists in five games. The 6-foot-
4, 220-pound blueliner seemed poised to cement a full-time gig, but the bounces went the other way
as a blood clot kept him on the sidelines for much of last season.

“Last year was a tough year for me,” says Pelech. “I missed a couple months with a blood clot issue
there, and this year I’ve only played 10 games with the shoulder, but I’m healthy now and I think even
with the injury problems, I’ve taken some strides from a couple years ago when I got called up.”

Despite missing time, Pelech continues to play the same physical style that earned him comparisons to
Flames veteran defenceman Robyn Regehr in term of making life miserable for opposition players. Even in his first games back from injury, he’s not shying away from the rough stuff. Pelech delivered big hits, a fight
and a goal in his first two games back in action, both of them Heat victories.

“I don’t think my injuries were a result of me playing physically,” says Pelech. “It’s unfortunate that I’ve
been injured and, obviously it has set my development back a bit. It’s not going to make me stop playing
physical. That’s the only way I can be successful.”

An elder statesman on the AHL’s youngest team, the 23-year-old presently serves as an alternate
captain in Abbotsford. Pelech prefers to lead by example, noting that hard work and continual
improvement is the key to individual and team success. He points to his improving plus-minus rating as
a sign that he’s adjusting to the big minutes and developing good habits.

“Being a minus player my first couple years in the league was just learning to play defence against
skilled players,” says Pelech. “In the OHL, there was only a couple players that could really eat you up
offensively. Now, almost every player in pro has the ability to do something special with the puck.”

Being part of the organization for as long as he has, Pelech is well-aware of the contractual quagmire
facing the Calgary Flames. With only four defensemen signed for next season and available cap space
dwindling, opportunities could soon emerge for Matt Pelech at the NHL level.

“I don’t think it’s about contracts,” says Pelech. “I think it’s more of me making sure I’m improving
and taking the steps I need to take to get to the next level. Every year, if you play well enough, they’re
going to keep you and they’re going to keep the best players.”

In the meantime, Pelech aims to help the Abbotsford Heat be the best team they can be.

Posted in Hockey.

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