MONTREAL – Do you know a lot of players who have embarked on a volunteering trip just a week after being drafted into the NHL?
Well, if you’re a Habs fan, you know at least one: Matthew Peca.
A week after hearing his name being called at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, MN, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s seventh-round pick (201st overall) in 2011 decided to head to the Dominican Republic with his high school on a humanitarian volunteering trip.
Over those 10 days down south, Peca worked on a sugar cane plantation, helped paint buildings, and met with children in schools.
“I had planned it all out with my high school before getting drafted. I was playing Junior A and I wasn’t sure I would get drafted. It was a really rewarding experience. It opened my eyes,” shared the centerman. “When I came back for training camp, I was all skinny and sick, but it was still a great experience.”
Matthew Peca on his humanitarian trip to the Dominican Republic Matthew Peca
The Petawawa, ON native affirmed that this was likely not his last humanitarian trip.
“I’d like to do it again, but I don’t have a lot of time anymore,” he admitted. “Maybe I’ll have some time one year in the summer.”
A man of many talents
By now, we all know what Peca can do on the ice, but the Habs’ No. 63 has some hidden talents off of it that are worth mentioning.
Peca has already shown off his musical talents to his teammates when they were in Chicago in December.
“They didn’t know I played piano, so I just wanted to surprise them,” he explained.
And if you needed more convincing that Peca possesses raw, natural talent, keep in mind that he never took piano lessons. He’s got a musical ear, as they say.
“I just decided to do that in my free time,” outlined Peca. “I always liked it, but I never took it seriously. I just like to play music to relax.”
When asked what kind of music he likes to play, Peca responded that he was open to all different kinds.
“I like playing a bit of everything, whether it’s new or old, I don’t have a favorite style in particular,” said the first-year Hab.
In addition to his musical ability, Peca said he planned on also focusing on his more artistic side during the Canadiens’ bye week.
“We have a lot of free time during the day, that’s why I like doing different things,” described the 25-year-old. “I like to paint and draw.”
A painting of Jimi Hendrix by Matthew Peca Matthew Peca
Proud Quinnipiac alum
Peca finished his degree in business and marketing following the 2014-15 season at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.
The forward, who signed a two-year deal with the Canadiens on July 1, picked the college route both due to the importance he placed on his studies, but also on his overall development.
“I didn’t think I was ready. I wasn’t built physically enough. I needed more time to train,” recalled Peca. “I knew it would be tough to crack the lineup on a professional team if I didn’t increase my muscle mass a bit.”
Four years later, Peca is one of three hockey players in Quinnipiac University’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
“It’s an honor. I worked hard to get where I am,” described Peca. “Team results have always been more important for me, but it’s something I’m proud of.”
Another fun fact about Peca is that he’s the first player to have ever played at Quinnipiac to have also earned a point in the NHL.
That said, he doesn’t think it’ll take long for the feat to be repeated.
“It’ll come. More and more Quinnipiac players are playing well and making it into the League,” affirmed Peca. “It’s good, because it’s a pretty small and lesser-known university.”
Peca closed out his NCAA career with 42 goals and 143 points in 157 games.
All in all, it’s clear he’s the perfect example of what it means to be a polymath.