Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!
Depending on which side of the pond you were skating on during the wee hours of May 27, 1994, it is a day that will live in infamy or a day you will remember eternally through the sands of time.
Twenty-three years later, the Game 7 double-overtime goal made famous by the call of New York Rangers’ broadcaster Howie Rose — and the timeless photograph captured by venerable, long-time NHL photographer Bruce Bennett — linked two gentlemen of the game together, forever.
And now, more than two decades later, the Rangers’ Stephane Matteau and the New Jersey Devils’ Jim Dowd, gladiators immortalized, stood side-by-side in unison, all in the name of charity.
“I have that picture at home,” Matteau, whose second, overtime game-winning goal in the Eastern Conference Finals propelled the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup, said. “When I got a phone call from Jim a few months ago asking me if I wanted to be involved in a fundraiser and I said, ‘Yes.‘
“I think I met him once, but I played against him for many, many years,” Matteau, who hails from Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, said. “I live in Montreal but I was doing a project in The Bronx so I was very nearby. Anytime you can help, it’s time for us as NHL alumni to get involved.”
Set at the Shore Hockey Pro Shop at the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall Township, NJ, fans from both sides of the Hudson River came out in droves to meet the legends, get autographs and take photos — all in the name of charity.
“Hometown Heroes started in 2008 in Toms River, New Jersey as a way to give back to the community. Since our inception, we’ve helped over 10,000 people and over 2,700 families,” Mike Schwartz, Founder of the Hometown Heroes Project, said. “Our mission is to help people in crisis and we do that in a unique way. Hurricane Sandy was our biggest project. We dispersed over three million dollars to help people get back on their feet, helped get homeless people off the street, helped kids with cancer… We partner with businesses, schools and individuals like Jim Dowd who want to something for the public and raise funds and provide an opportunity for everybody to step up and be a “Hometown Hero.”
Dowd, who, along with his wife, started the “Jim Dowd Shoot for the Stars Foundation” in 1995, which raised money for local families and organizations in Monmouth and Ocean County for over two decades, continues to remain active in the community as a board member of the Asbury Park Music and Film Festival. The organization, which benefits underserved children by providing music education, instruments and social connection opportunities, has had a tremendous effect.
“The Hometown Heroes — it’s an amazing organization, an amazing foundation that helps all walks of life,” Dowd, a Brick, NJ native who has been married to his wife, Lisa, for 21 years, and has two children, James, 17, and Anthony, 14, said. “It’s just a way of giving back, paying it forward to the community. They help anyone from paying their electric city bill to helping organizations that don’t have a 501(c)(3).
“That famous picture, and as we all know in New Jersey, there are tons of Rangers fans,” Dowd said. “The Devils didn’t move here until 1982 when I was 13, so a majority of fans down here are Rangers fans. I get that picture via text on a weekly basis so it was a perfect fit. Some people call that the best seven-game series of all-time — and I just happened to be in the photo!”
Dowd, who came up with the Brick Hockey Club skating out of the Brick Forum and the Ocean Ice Palace, attended Brick High School from 1983-87 where he broke the National Scoring Record with a four-year tally of 375 points (189 goals, 186 assists) while helping the team to the NJSIAA championship in 1986. The first and only New Jersey native to be drafted by the New Jersey Devils right out high school, Dowd was an 8th-round selection, 149th overall in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft held in Detroit.
After high school, Dowd went to Lake Superior State University where he won an NCAA championship in 1988. While in college, Dowd continued score at a prolific rate graduating the school’s all-time leading scorer with 274 points (91 goals, 183 assists). Dowd made his NHL debut with the Devils on March 26, 1992 and played 17 NHL seasons with 10 different teams including the Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers amassing 71 goals and 168 assists for 239 points in 728 games. He holds two NHL records: the most teams played for by an American-born player (10); and the fastest two goals in history with two goals in span of three seconds as a member of the Wild on Jan. 21, 2004 against the Blackhawks.
In 1995, Dowd helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup scoring one of the most memorable goals in history when he netted the game-winning goal with 1:26 left in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. He is the only New Jersey native to win a High School State Championship, NCAA Championship and Stanley Cup.
“I was Jimmy’s center in high school,” Shore Hockey Pro Shop Owner and Operator Brian Arnott, said. “It’s a great event and great that Jimmy came back to town and realized where he came from. He does stuff like this all time. He’s a hometown hero to us.”
Matteau registered 144 goals and 172 assists over the course of 848 games spanning 13 NHL seasons with the Flames, Blackhawks, Rangers, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks and Florida Panthers. His son, Stefan, continues his legacy in The League having played for the Devils and Canadiens. Stefan is currently in the Vegas Golden Knights organization. His daughter, Alyson, is currently a junior playing for the University of Maine.
“When Jim called me, I told my wife, ‘Isn’t it weird 25 years later, two guys who shared the same moment for different reasons are together?‘ But that’s what the hockey family is all about. It doesn’t matter if we played against each other — even if it was one of the best playoff series of all-time — what matters is today, if we can help each other… 25 years later… sometimes it can overwhelm.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Jim Dowd and Stephane Matteau with the Jersey Shore Wildcats youth hockey club. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Dowd)
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