It”s a situation that”s sad, no matter how you look at it. Michigan senior Scott Matzka, once an assistant captain on the hockey team, now wears his uniform with a conspicuous absence around the left shoulder.

Paul Wong
The Schwartz Authority

The “A” that he so proudly wore for the entire regular season is gone for the playoff stretch.

Of course, Matzka would be the first to admit that coach Red Berenson”s decision to strip him of the captaincy was legitimate. Matzka, in the final game of the regular season against Michigan State at Munn Ice Arena completely lost control of his emotions after referee Steve Piotrowski whistled him for holding three minutes into the third period.

Matzka was given a 10-minute misconduct, and when the Spartans scored on the ensuing powerplay and Piotrowski went to report the goal, Matzka made some sort of gesture in his direction, prompting the official to give him a game misconduct.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to Matzka”s issue: The first says that it is the job of the captains to defend teammates, an example being when officials are treating a team unfairly. But the other says that the captains need to set an example for the team to follow.

Either way, it”s too bad that the situation reached this point.

Matzka is a talented hockey player, a strong emotional presence in the lockerroom and a highly capable student. Majoring in computer science, the senior probably extends more time to his coursework than any of the team”s other key players.

But since the incident, what has shined brighter than Matzka the hockey player or Matzka the student has been Matzka the leader. He has been the ultimate in accountability ever since he left the Munn ice to the shouts of the Spartans fans.

“It”s disappointing the way I acted,” Matzka said after last Friday night”s victory over Ferris State in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.” I”m apologetic to my teammates and fans for having to see the way I acted.”

That night in East Lansing, Matzka acknowledged that he wanted to apologize to Piotrowski, who many consider to be the finest referee in the CCHA. He reiterated those thoughts on Friday.

“I still think he”s a great ref,” he said.

Berenson made it clear that his decision is not intended to embarrass Matzka. He simply felt that his conduct did not appear fitting of an assistant captain. And he was probably right about that.

But credit the entire team for standing behind Matzka. Credit both Berenson and Matzka for not trying to hide the issue and, instead, bringing it to the forefront. Other teams at Michigan might have handled the issue by throwing around “no comments” until everyone was bored to death with the situation.

“I needed to be a better leader,” Matzka said. “I”m just trying to learn from this.”

If there”s one thing that he may have learned by now, it”s that he is fortunate to have his teammates behind him and looking up to him, whether or not he has a title.

“Whether he”s got a “A” on his jersey or not, if he comes to play like he did tonight, that”s what we want,” fellow senior Bob Gassoff said on Friday night, after Matzka was one of Michigan”s best players on the ice.

One resonating message from the movie “A Few Good Men,” is the line, “You don”t have to wear a badge on your arm to have honor.”

It”s a lesson that Matzka can and should take to heart. His season the last in his Michigan career has no more than six games until its end. Should he choose, he can end this chapter of his life no differently than he started the season, by being the team”s oft-outspoken leader.

Gassoff said it best: “Just because you don”t wear a letter doesn”t mean you”re not a leader.”

“I needed to be a better leader,” Matzka said. “I”m just trying to learn from this.”

If there”s one thing that he may have learned by now, it”s that he is fortunate to have his teammates behind him and looking up to him, whether or not he has a title.

“Whether he”s got a “A” on his jersey or not, if he comes to play like he did tonight, that”s what we want,” fellow senior Bob Gassoff said on Friday night, after Matzka was one of Michigan”s best players on the ice.

One resonating message from the movie “A Few Good Men,” is the line, “You don”t have to wear a badge on your arm to have honor.”

It”s a lesson that Matzka can and should take to heart. His season the last in his Michigan career has no more than six games until its end. Should he choose, he can end this chapter of his life no differently than he started the season, by being the team”s oft-outspoken leader.

Gassoff said it best: “Just because you don”t wear a letter doesn”t mean you”re not a leader.”

Jon Schwartz can be reached at jlsz@umich.edu

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