When Trey Matthews called his first college hockey game as a play-by-play announcer, the experience didn’t go well.
Matthews struggled through the broadcast so much that viewers sent complaints to college administrators.
Almost four years later, Matthews is making history as a hockey broadcaster.
Matthews, a 23-year-old graduate student at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, just became the second African American man to serve as a play-by-play announcer in the more-than-40-year history of the Canadian Hockey League. The game took place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day between the Erie Otters and the Mississauga Steelheads.
Matthews worked as the voice of the Otters during the team’s second MLK Day game — in the same booth where history was made on the same holiday the previous year by fellow Pennsylvanian Alex Randall. Matthews, who lives in Philadelphia, is following in the footsteps of his mentor Everett Fitzhugh — the National Hockey League’s first Black broadcaster for the Seattle Kraken.
This opportunity comes for Matthews after calling three years of college hockey for his alma mater, Adrian College — calling for the NCAA and ACHA men’s and women’s teams on Adrian College TV — and currently the ASU Sun Devils hockey team.
Matthews’ first experience with calling a hockey game motivated him to grow and learn more about the game.
“I didn’t know what I was doing; I didn’t know what I was saying; I didn’t know any terminology, but at the same time, I just lost myself in the game,” he said. “So during winter break I bought a hockey video game — it was NHL 19. I played that video game nonstop just to teach myself more about the sport, the rules, regulations.”
Matthews locked himself in his room and just watched hockey games. He set out to learn about hockey and fell in love with the sport. He then thrusted himself into the play-by-play role and hasn’t looked back since.
Now, Matthews is honored to have the opportunity to call hockey games. He realizes there aren’t that many Black hockey broadcasters, so the experience is surreal for him.
“Being that representative in the Black community, it’s my responsibility to just be that role model and to inspire the next person in line. If they want to be a player, if they want to be a journalist, if they want to be a broadcaster in the sport of hockey, then they can do so,” he said.
“In our field, you have to be 10 times as good just to be considered decent, and that’s just the reality of it. Sometimes I felt like I was second fiddle, sometimes I felt underappreciated, sometimes I felt undervalued, but at the end of the day, I knew I was appreciated by a lot more people.”
Matthews said his dad always told him to prove his supporters right, instead of proving his doubters wrong.
“Find the person who does support you, because you’re going to need them the most. People are going to criticize you or ask why you’re bringing race into this. Sometimes you have to give the harsh reality, but at the end of the day, I’m in your corner,” he said.
Fitzhugh told him that no one sets out to be the first in anything. Matthews was just enjoying the sport of hockey and now he’s gotten here.
“There are 7 billion people on this earth. How many people can say they’re one of the first to do something? My story and other people’s stories need to be shared a little bit more. People like me and Everett Fitzhugh aren’t in the press box too often. We need to share those types of stories, so that way it becomes a little bit more normal,” he said. “I hope we get to a point where I don’t have to say, 'Black play-by-play announcer' and I can just say 'play-by-play announcer,' to where it becomes normal.”
Matthews doesn’t know what's in store for him in the future, but the dream goal is to work for the NHL.
“Right now I’m just enjoying the journey; I’m enjoying the present moment,” he said.
Written by Sierra Alvarez
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