The possibilities were endless.
After a rough-and-tumble campaign and just three wins in 2008-09, the Edward Little hockey program knew brighter days were ahead. With returning stalwart forward Mat Gordon leading the way, the Eddies’ three-win season would be a thing of the past.
In the final game of the season, though, optimism turned to fright. Gordon, an otherwise healthy, intelligent, athletic student, started fumbling around on the ice. His skates felt dull, his legs were turning into spaghetti.
“All I could think of at the time was, ‘What is wrong with me? Why is this happening?'” Gordon told a rapt audience at the annual Maine Class A Hockey Coaches’ Association banquet. “All I could think of was, ‘I have to push harder.’ But a couple of days later, I actually fell over at home. Twice.”
Gordon was stricken with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. He spent a week in the hospital, much of that time without the use of his legs or arms. It was frightening.
“I wasn’t able to walk, or even open a Gatorade bottle,” Gordon continued. “I felt helpless.”
Doctors reversed the effects of the syndrome before any critical damage to Gordon’s lungs or heart occured, but he had a long road of physical therapy ahead of him.
Physical therapy, varsity baseball and summer hockey, of course.
“After my first game (of summer hockey), I nearly passed out from exhaustion,” Gordon said. “It was then I realized the road to recovery would be long and hard.”
Gordon persevered. By the end of November, when Maine’s high school hockey season begins, Gordon was practicing every day with his teammates. Things weren’t perfect, but they were much better, under the circumstances. Now, he figured, all he had to do was play hockey.
And he did that very, very well.
In his first game of the season, Gordon recorded no points, though neither did anyone else on the team as the Eddies lost to rival Lewiston. But he logged a lot of ice time.
In Game 2, against Skowhegan, Gordon finally broke onto the score sheet. In the team’s third game, against Windham/Sacopee Valley, he registered four goals and an assist, and then against Cony he added a goal and four more assists. It was a pattern in the making.
The third in a line of hockey players and coaches, Gordon, whose grandfather, Lincoln coached the 1958 Dixfield team to an upset win over St. Dom’s in the state title game and was instrumental in bringing hockey to Edward Little, drew inspiration from his family.
“It was grandpa’s work ethic that urged me on,” Gordon said. “I knew he wouldn’t want me to give up, that he’d want me to keep trying my hardest. He didn’t talk a lot, but he was always present at my games until he passed away last June. Even though he is no longer with us, I still want him to be proud of me, to live up to his expectations. So I stuck with it.”
Seventeen games later, Gordon finished the season and the playoffs with 26 goals and 24 assists for 50 points to lead all players in Eastern Class A. He finished third overall in Class A.
More important, though, was his ability to help lead his team to a much more respectable record of 14-4-0 in the regular season.
“The most important thing is that I didn’t give up, and I was able to help my team be successful,” Gordon said. “We won 11 more games this year than we did last year.”
A multi-sport athlete, Gordon may have played his final game of competitive ice hockey, as his plans are to play baseball in college. But the recognition for his efforts is just beginning. A top four finalist for the Travis Roy Award as Class A hockey’s top all-around senior student-athlete this season, Gordon now has another line to add to his resume.
For his extraordinary efforts on and off the ice this season, for his ability to overcome adversity and set a positive example in perseverance, Mat Gordon is the 2010 Sun Journal Boys’ Ice Hockey Player of the Year.
2010 Sun Journal All-Region Boys’ Ice Hockey Team
F – Kolby Arnold, Gray-NG
F – Nate Bergeron, St. Dom’s
F – Sam Cloutier, Lewiston
F – Joey Fournier, Lewiston
F – Mat Gordon, Edward Little
F – Dakota Keene, St. Dom’s
F – Eric Ogren, MHW
F – Alex Parker, St. Dom’s
F – Cooper Legee, Leavitt
F – Ben Wigant, Lewiston
D – Cam Brown, St. Dom’s
D – Cody Dussault, Lewiston
D – Trevar Haefele, St. Dom’s
D – Donne Larrivee, St. Dom’s
D – Jason Laporte, MHW
D – Nick Mathon, Lewiston
D – Zac Knapp, Gray-NG
D – Eagan Nadeau, Leavitt
D – Scott Ouellette, Lewiston
D – Nick Urquhart, Leavitt
G – Shayne Curtis, St. Dom’s
G – Cam Poussard, Lewiston
G – Cody Violette, Leavitt