Living in Massachusetts, it’s almost impossible to grow up without at least trying a pair of skates on. It’s a way of life for so many growing up in the area, one that almost always finds a way to be passed down from generation to generation. Visit any rink, pond or flooded cranberry bog in the state – it will be littered with hockey enthusiasts young and old, past and present.
For Matt Filipe, current Northeastern forward and third-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, the game was always in his blood, as is the case with countless kids growing up in and around Boston.
Yet there was something else in his blood that makes his story even more special: Northeastern University, the school he represents, and the school his father Paul represented 40 years ago.
Matt Filipe grew up in Lynnfield, Mass., a town 15 miles north of Boston. He was always playing sports, starring on the baseball and lacrosse fields. But it was on the ice where he shone the brightest.
“Once we got him on skates and he started playing, he just loved it,” Paul Filipe said. “He wanted to play as much as he could. [Matt and his friends] would skate at Pillings Pond, play street hockey on the tennis courts. They were always doing something with hockey.”
Matt attended Malden Catholic High School, known for its prestigious hockey programwhere he helped MC to Super 8 titles in his first two years there. During his senior year, he played in the United States Hockey League for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. After finishing the season in Iowa with 36 points in 56 games, it was time to decide where he would spend his next four years.
Paul Filipe arrived at Northeastern in 1979, and immediately made an impact on the Huskies’ blue-line. A determined, physical defenseman, Paul was a part of a Northeastern team that became the measuring stick for the next four decades of Huskies hockey. His role in the team’s record-setting achievements earned him a place in the Northeastern Hall of Fame.
Filipe and his teammates captured Northeastern’s first Beanpot title in 1980, and in 1982 made the NCAA tournament, also a first for the program. One of the elder Filipe’s teammates during that magical 1982 season: Jim Madigan, current head coach of the Northeastern Huskies, and the man that recruited Matt.
Deciding where to attend college can be a daunting task for any high school student, never mind one being recruited to play Division I hockey. Luckily for Matt, the decision was one made subliminally several years prior.
“I spent a lot of time at Matthews Arena when I was younger, going to games,” Matt said. “I was around the rink a lot when I was a kid, trying to get sticks from players in the locker room. It was always somewhere that I just felt like was home for me. When the time came to choose a college, it was a no-brainer for me, really.”
There was no pressure from his father, just a whole lot of support and love.
“At the end of the day now, he’s just supporting me as a father,” Matt said. “First and foremost, that’s how he looks at it – he’s just supporting his kid. He’s my biggest fan, and just having him support me is huge.”
Though he never pushed Matt towards Huntington Avenue, the elder Filipe hardly complains about his son flying around the same historic barn that hosted some of his finest hockey memories. Perhaps the only thing he needs to worry about is his son finishing his Northeastern tenure with a few more prizes on his hardware shelf.
“He’s one-upped me; he has two Beanpots,” Paul said. “I’m sure he’s not going to let me live that one down. I’m really happy for him, for the team, the fans and the school. I couldn’t be prouder of him, blazing his own path there.”
Another commonality between father and son – their style of play. Though they play different positions, Madigan recognized it immediately.
“They both have that determination ingredient, and characteristic of hard work, second effort,” Madigan said. “Hockey was important to Paul and it’s important to Matt – that willingness to do whatever it takes to get better and make sure you leave it all out on the ice.”
That hunger etched the Filipe name in Northeastern hockey history books twice over. But the story isn’t yet over for Matt, now preparing for his senior season on Huntington Avenue. There’s still time to add a few more pages to the family legacy before he walks across the stage at TD Garden, above the ice where he pushed the boundaries his father helped create.