Air Academy High School alum Rich Matthews has not only held the Stanley Cup — one of the most coveted trophies in all of sport — his name is etched on the cup for all time.
In fact, his name appears on the cup in three different places.
The assistant equipment manager for the St. Louis Blues, Matthews’ most recent foray into history came last June after the Blues defeated the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals to claim the organization’s first championship.
Matthews also won Stanley Cups with the Dallas Stars (1999) and New Jersey Devils (2003).
When a team wins the Stanley Cup, key members of the organization have their names etched onto the trophy. Also, each key member of the organization is allowed to have the cup for a day.
Last month, Matthews spent his day with the cup touring his former New Jersey stomping grounds and sharing the moment with friends and former colleagues.
“You get to do whatever you want with it,” said Matthews, a 1989 Air Academy graduate. “I drank from it. Took photos with it. Had a great time.”
Matthews lives in St. Louis with his wife, Sara, and their two daughters, Madisyn and Kamdyn.
Matthews has been involved with the National Hockey League since 1997, when he was hired as an assistant equipment manager with the Dallas Stars. Two years later, the Stars were Stanley Cup champions.
Dallas lost in the finals the next season to New Jersey, Matthews’ final season with the team.
After three seasons with Dallas, Matthews was hired as the head equipment manager of the New Jersey Devils. The Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2003, Matthews’ third season with the team.
Matthews was also part of two other Devils’ teams that lost in the finals — 2001 and 2012.
“Playoff games are nothing like regular season games,” Matthews said. “Only four are guaranteed. Not 82 like the regular season.”
Matthews has worked with some of the elite players in the sport. Among the hall of famers he has served are Brett Hull, Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ed Belfour, Scott Stevens, Martin Brodeur and Scott Niedermayer.
“Hockey players are the best athletes in any sport,” Matthews said. “They’re tough. But they are also the nicest.”
It seems that Matthews has always been involved with hockey. He and his older brother played for Air Academy and legendary coach Wayne Marshall, who directed the team to three state championships. Matthews was a four-year letterman.
“He was good to us,” Matthews said of the late Marshall.
Matthews attended Arizona State University, but did not play hockey in college. His passion for the game stayed with him, however, and during his time in Tempe he got a job with the minor league Phoenix Roadrunners.
“I started as a locker room attendant,” Matthews said.
After he graduated from ASU, Matthews got a job an equipment manager with the minor league Detroit Vipers (1994-97).
Matthews has no plans to get out of the NHL or the business anytime soon.
“My body is starting to show its age, but I still love what I do,” Matthews said. “The players depend on us. We are the unsung heroes. Usually the first guys in and the last guys to leave. We support all the players and make sure everything is ready to go.”
Matthews is getting ready to begin his third season with the Blues. Training camp starts on Thursday and is open to the public Friday and Saturday. The Blues play their regular season opener Oct. 2 at home against Washington.