LEWISTON – New Maine Nordiques head coach Matt “Pinch” Pinchevsky has taken an unorthodox path to hockey.
The 39-year-old Pembroke Pines, Florida native was a multi-sport athlete who played football, baseball and soccer. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Florida, forcing 10-year-old Pinchevsky’s family to relocate. His athletic endeavors changed forever when he met a boy named Nick Ellis in his new neighborhood.
“It was out of necessity to make a friend,” said Pinchevsky, who earlier this week was promoted to head coach of the Nordiques, replacing Nolan Howe. âWhen Hurricane Andrew demolished our neighborhood, everyone took their insurance checks and moved further from the coast and further inland. It was a new development; these were either young families with infants or the elderly.
âThe minute another kid my age entered development – (Ellis) was from Nova Scotia – all of a sudden I was (like), ‘Hey, you wanna play? I have a soccer ball, a catcher’s glove, a soccer ball, do you want to play any of these sports? He was like, ‘No, I play hockey.’ “
Pinchevsky didn’t realize at the time that hockey was about to explode in the Sunshine State. The NHL has expanded to Florida, first adding the Tampa Lightning in 1992, then the Florida Panthers in Miami, 35 minutes from Pembroke Pines, in 1993.
Pinchevsky first donned inline skates at the age of 11, and laced up his first pair of skates a year later.
“I don’t know if it’s all the other sports that made me an athlete or helped me to be open to absorb instruction, skill development and (being able) to compete, things like that, lessons. of life you learn, fellowship, brotherhood, âsaid Pinchevsky. âI dropped everything; I gave up five years of piano, I gave up all other sports. I got up early to do my homework so I could spend more time on the ice at night. I adopted him and caught the virus. I took it badly.
In 1997, he moved to Faribault, Minnesota, to play midget and preseason hockey at the Shattuck St. Mary’s hockey plant.
When Maine Nordiques general manager Eric Soltys arrived in Shattuck-St. Mary’s as a goalkeeper coach in 1999, he saw Pinchevsky, who was a junior on the varsity prep team, soak up the training he received and believed Pinchevsky could be a coach one day.
âComing in at the time as a player from Florida, he was a highly skilled (striker) and there wasn’t a lot of training in Florida, where he came from (where),â Soltys said. . âHe slipped into Minnesota like a sponge; he was looking for all angles to improve his game as a player. When you see this determination, this commitment and this willingness to improve yourself as a player, you always wonder if he can have some coaching in him.
There were eight different hockey teams, from the Bantam level to the varsity prep team, in Shattuck-St. Mary’s and Pinchevsky watched the other teams practice. He soaked up the coaching of Soltys and Shattuck-St. Mary’s head coach Tom Ward. He was particularly drawn to the personality of Soltys.
âThe energy of (Soltys) was so contagious, and again goalie coaches mean nothing to (defenders and forwards) unless they ask you to be a shooter (in the convenient), but he was much more than that to all of us – in the dining room, in the dorms when he was on duty and on road trips, âPinchevsky said. âIt became an important part of all of us, and we’ve stayed connected ever since. “
Soltys said the bond between him and Pinchevsky has grown and turned into a family-like bond.
âHaving Matt as a freshman 22 years ago, looking at where he lived his life, watching him get married and have a family, it’s really fun being a part of his world,â said Soltys. “I’m super lucky to call him a brother, and a 22-year relationship going back to when I barked at him as a player meant something.”
TRANSITION TO TRAINING
Pinchevsky didn’t think training was something he wanted to do.
After graduating from Shattuck-St. Mary’s in 2000 and playing a few years of junior hockey in the Eastern Junior Hockey League with the Lowell Jr. Lock Monsters and Bridgewater Bandits, he played his college hockey at Curry College, a Division III school of the NCAA in Milton, Massachusetts, from 2003-07.
In 2009, he became a coach for the Florida Alliance Youth Hockey Program while working in the Broward County, Florida school system.
âI was pretty naive; I have probably said once or twice in my career: “Coaches are players who can no longer play,” said Pinchevsky.
He coached three different age groups during his two years with the Florida Alliance. Pinchevsky then reunited with Soltys at South Kent School in South Kent, Connecticut, to start Selects Hockey Academy, which followed Shattuck-St. Mary’s model of having teams at different age levels.
“It’s one of those things, we were starting a whole new academy at a prep school that was almost 200 years old,” Pinchevsky said. “It was renaming a program of excellence that was something so old and traditional.”
Soltys said Selects Academy was where Pinchevsky found what was going to make him a great coach.
“His game management and player management are the two skills that have really improved the most for him,” said Soltys. âPinch has always been a great guy, ready to teach and ready to show you (what to do). He does it with passion. Now he’s really translated that so the players know what their role is and understand that he is. done in their best interest.
Pinchvesky spent three years at Selects Hockey Academy. He was then head coach of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Knights of the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League for the 2014-15 season, and head coach of the Portland Jr. Pirates 18U team in 2015-16. He joined the Seacoast Performance Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 2016.
The Maine Nordiques hired him as an assistant coach in 2019.
Like the Selects Academy, the Performance Academy and the Nordiques were all new organizations.
âI feel like I’ve been in a perpetual startup over the years,â Pinchevsky said.
Now, more than two years after the start of the Maine Nordiques, Pinchevsky is the head of the organization’s NAHL team.
He is considered a player coach, which Soltys says is someone who has the ability to coach players on the ice and be available to them off the ice.
One of the first Pinchevsky and Soltys players to recruit from Selects Academy was Kyle Warren. Warren is now an assistant coach with the Nordiques.
âMatt meant everything to me,â Warren said. âHe’s been one of the greatest mentors since I came to the South Kent campus. He and Soltys took me under their wing when I was 13, and I couldn’t be more grateful for everything they did for me. They’ve been with me since I was 13, and even when I wasn’t playing for them anymore, they were just a phone call away or texted, and they were always there for me.
Warren said he was linked to Pinchevsky and Soltys because of their love and passion for hockey. Those who have played for or worked alongside Pinchevsky say his energy inspires players to maximize their effort and dedication to the sport and the team.
âHe’s trying to build the positivity and he always gives a good game plan,â said Maine Nordiques forward Caden Pattison. “Whatever you need help with, he always has his ears open on the ice and off the ice.”
Being there for them at all times of the day resonates with the players.
âHe’s the heart and soul of this program,â said Nordiques forward Zion Green. âHe really comes every day – he’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had – he works as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen. He cares about every guy on this team. You can tell (we’re not) from the guys he trained; it is his family for him.
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