By Mike Calimbas
One-on-One with Houston Aeros Enforcer Matt Kassian
To quote the recent words of UFC quote machine Chael Sonnen, opponents of Houston’s hometown hockey team must feel like they are “skating on really thin ice with really sharp skates” when going up against the Houston Aeros’ resident enforcer Matt Kassian.
Growing up in the frigid north of Edmonton, Alberta, the twenty-four year old Kassian took up sports at a very young age. “I’m Canadian, and playing hockey in Canada is like breathing so you start pretty young. I started playing at about 4 years old I think,” says Matt. Also playing football, baseball, basketball, and even a bit of soccer, the self-described normal kid was attracted to hockey most because according to him, it’s a “fast, physical, emotional game” and he liked those exciting aspects of the game.
“Big hits, big fights, big goal goals, and big moments,” that is his passion for hockey according to Matt Kassian.
With that being said, perhaps it was fate that brought him to Houston, TX to play and skate for the Houston Aeros. After all, one of the city’s main mottos is “go big and go home” and you can’t bring them in much than 6’5 and 250 pounds!
As the team’s resident enforcer, Matt has some big responsibilities for the Aeros as the man in charge of watching everyone’s back on the ice. ”You’re basically a police officer.” He says. “You keep everyone in line out there. If someone is giving your teammates troubles, you have to take care of it. Sometimes you stop something before it happens, and sometimes you stop things from happening again.”
Judging by some of the vicious hooks, leg-trip takedowns, and all-out brawls we’ve seen from Kassian, to the casual hockey fan, it might actually look like he actually enjoys this fighting part of hockey. Little do they know he actually does, and he’s pretty good at it too.
In an effort to improve on that aspect of his craft, the crafty Matt Kassian recently took up Mixed Martial Arts training as a way to better prepare himself for those times on the ice when he has to do some policing. He’s also using MMA training methods to further enhance his capabilities as an athlete as well.
When I asked him why he took up MMA, Matt mentioned fighting in hockey as the obvious answer but also expressed that his MMA training adds much more than just that. “It works on your conditioning, hand-eye coordination, and the mental side of the game also. Basically MMA is an extremely valuable training tool,” Kassian says about what Mixed Martial Arts training brings to the table for professional athletes.
Speaking about his experience with MMA off the ice and off the mats, Matt being a long-time fan and counts Georges St. Pierre as one of his favorites due to his overall technicality and methodical destruction of opponents, plus the fact that he is a fellow Canadian!
All in all, is very passionate about MMA both on the mats and as a fan. “I love it all! I enjoy training in the morning and watching in the evening. I’ve always been more a fan of the brutal knockouts, but submissions can end a fight just as quick and can be just as exiting.”
As far as his own athletic career, I did ask Matt Kassian if he could ever see himself stepping into the Legacy cage as a fighter. For the sake of his current professional career, he hopes that by the time he’s done with hockey that he is too old to be fighting MMA but then again, he also says you never know. In his own words, Matt says “I’d like to think I have a natural gift for this sport” and thinks fighting guys like Brock Lesnar would be a blast.
Indeed Legacy could always use a few more aggressive heavyweights but for now, MMA and hockey fans can look forward to watching Matt Kassian kick butt in the rink for the Houston Aeros. Also be on the lookout for Matt as he is excited to be attending on April 9th at the next Legacy Fighting Championships at Arena Theatre. Let’s hope he doesn’t go to the fight and watch a hockey game break out!
Category: News & Views