Myles Mattila traded his hockey stick for a business degree this season, but is still giving back to the game he loves. (Submitted Photo)

Myles Mattila traded his hockey stick for a business degree this season, but is still giving back to the game he loves. (Submitted Photo)

HOMETOWN HEROES: Quesnel hockey player giving back to the game he loves

Myles Mattila traded his hockey stick for a business degree this season

It’s been a weird year for Myles Mattila.

It’s his first year not competitively playing hockey, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced him into early retirement.

Mattila, who grew up in Quesnel, had been playing with the Kelowna Chiefs of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).

Just because he’s not playing on the ice, however, doesn’t mean Mattila isn’t trying to change the culture of hockey. A group he founded, MindRight, for athletes works to provide mental health assistance to athletes who might not have access to it otherwise.

The group also awards the Grant Sheridan Scholarship, given to a player in the KIJHL in honour of the chiefs late owner and general manager.

“There is a lot of burden for these hockey players, who need to pay for hockey, and try to go to school at the same time,” Mattila said.

“I’m really fortunate to start that initiative through the Grant Sheridan Scholarship to allow individuals to follow their passion.”

Giving the scholarship is a personal joy for Mattila, who is finishing off his final semester at Okanagan College. He’s set to graduate with a bachelor’s of business administration and is already accepted at Thompson Rivers University for a masters of business program.

“I really enjoyed playing in (the KIJHL) and going to school at the same time,” Mattila said.

“I wasn’t ready at that age to make a choice between hockey and school. I was super fortunate to do both at the same time.”

READ MORE: Could Quesnel see another Junior A hockey team?

It’s his first year going to school without playing competitive junior hockey as well.

“It’s been quite the transition for sure,” he said.

The MindRight society is also partnering with Kids Help Phone to raise awareness and bring resources to an audience Mattila said can be tough to reach.

“I found working with athletes is so difficult sometimes, because there might be additional barriers, they might feel they can’t reach out,” he said, adding one in five Canadians report experiencing a sign of mental illness each year.

The society focuses on early intervention and peer-to-peer support, using hockey as a medium to reach players who might be struggling.

“That’s the biggest thing through MindRight, just raising awareness, getting the subject out there, and letting players know they’re not alone,” Mattila said.

“There are so many different factors regarding mental health, and I think it’s really important to stress this subject about how important this is.”

Mattila said it’s increasingly common for KIJHL players to play hockey and attend some sort of post-secondary institution. He said around half of his teammates in Kelowna were doing some kind of post-secondary training to help them prepare for life after hockey, adding he hopes to expand the Grant Sheridan scholarship, awarding it to multiple players each year.

“The numbers are going up throughout every year,” Mattila said on how many players are taking post-secondary classes while playing in the KIJHL.

“Before… a lot of players would just go to junior B just to play hockey, but suddenly we’re starting to see them join these hockey clubs and go to school which is fantastic.”

In between MindRight and school, Mattila has also launched a business, charting boats during the summer months in Kelowna.

Do you know someone in the Quesnel area who is worthy of being called a Hometown Hero? Send your suggestions to editor@quesnelobserver.com to give that recognition.

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Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com


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cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com

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