By Jenn Whittaker
Many students flock to Tampa for its picturesque views and warm weather, but Matt Fenby spends most of his time in an arena filled with ice. The senior forward and captain of the Spartans Hockey Club has been a reliable asset since he arrived at UT his freshman year, helping build the club both on and off the ice.
Outside of practice and games, Fenby has been a trusted representative of the team, taking on his share of responsibilities throughout the years to ensure the club’s success. This summer, Fenby decided to become the team’s marketing director. He monitors the club’s website on pointstreak.com to update statistics and schedules, among other things, and works closely with the team’s current president, putting in many extra hours with club managers and volunteers, to get the word out about the club.
“This year, there were more student tryouts than ever before so the talent pool has increased for the team,” Fenby said. “I’m really proud of Nick Martin and Joe Tully, our assistant captains, and Alexander Carde, the team president.”
One of the biggest successes under Fenby’s leadership this year has been the collaboration with Student Government to bus students from Vaughn Center to the team’s home ice-rink in Brandon for the rivalry and homecoming games.
Though building the club’s reputation and notoriety is admirable, Fenby shines brightest when he takes the ice. Of course, this is nothing new, says head coach Stephen Kucera.
“Matt’s passion and his high hockey IQ stood out when he was a freshman skater. When the time came to name a new skater with the ‘C’ on his jersey, Matt was an obvious choice,” Kucera said. “He’s a rock-solid skater who can calmly chat with the officials and knows the rules like the back of his hand. He has the ability to focus the team on what is necessary to win a game with his words and actions. Our team feeds off of Matt’s energy, both in the locker room and on the ice.”
While Fenby is excited to graduate at the end of Spring 2016 with a philosophy major and a law minor, his departure from the team is not something he’s looking forward to. Fenby jokes that he plans on staying at UT for 10 more years just to keep playing.
“I’m going to miss everything about this team,” Fenby said. “They are my best friends at school. They’ve been like my family since I was a freshman. The thing I think I’m going to miss most is that sense of belonging.”
Joe Tully, a junior forward and assistant captain, spoke about the three years he has known Fenby, praising him for his inclusiveness and ability to hold everyone together. “Matt’s a very good friend of mine, not just my captain,” Tully said. “He’s been a great mentor for me. I work very closely with him so when he leaves here it will be a little sad. Matt’s a big reason why we do feel like a family. He’s the glue that holds it together for a lot of kids, makes everybody feel welcomed and he cares the most, putting in the most time.”
Fenby explained the privileges of wearing a ‘C’ or ‘A’ on a hockey jersey. “The captain and assistant captains’ jobs on the ice are primarily to talk to the referees during penalties, controversial calls or when the coach has something to communicate,” Fenby said. “Outside of games, we are leaders of practice. We get people going and make sure everything runs smoothly.”
Said practices are known as called captains’ practices, as the coaches leave it up to the captain and assistant captains to take over and keep the players focused on the ice. Clearly they’ve been putting in the work. After a long losing streak to their conference rivals, the Spartans Hockey Club finally clinched their first win against the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles this October in a heated contest in Fort Myers.
While Fenby is pleased with the team’s recent success, he explained that the true deciding factor in gauging the season is the Region Rankings. “These rankings are compiled from a group of coaches representing the South Region and decide which schools are the Top-15 teams in the Region. The top two teams receive an automatic bid directly to the National Tournament. The first rankings of the season will come out in November. The final ranking is what ultimately matters for the post-season, and that will be released in early February, two weeks before the Regional Tournament,” Fenby said. Last season, the Spartans finished tenth. The team is hoping for its highest ranking ever this year.
To listen to Fenby talk about past games is like listening to a play-by-play announcer who remembers names, numbers, moves and shots on goal. His passion for the team and hockey exudes from his every word.