On September 9, 2018, Peterborough Petes alumnus Matt Puempel re-signed with the Detroit Red Wings on a two year contract. The 6’1″ right winger spent the previous year with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, tallying 22 goals and 32 assists over the season. Before joining the Motor City, Puempel was drafted in the first round by the Ottawa Senators of the 2011 NHL entry draft.
From here he spent four seasons with the Binghamton Senators under the leadership of former Pete, Luke Richardson.
“Luke was awesome, I had him for three years, I was up and down a little bit but he definitely contributed to my development, he taught me how to break into pro. He was a great guy first and foremost and he had some pretty good teams under him, he cares a lot about his players and the guys under him.”
Puempel concluded, stating, “He’s done well for himself,” an inarguable statement as Richardson kicks off his first season as assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens.
Following his time in the Ottawa Senators organization, Puempel was traded to the New York Rangers and played 27 games. His time in the Big Apple was cut short when the Detroit Red Wings acquired Matt in a trade, on October 21, 2017.
Matt follows in the footsteps of some of the Petes most notable talents like Bob Errey, Steve Yzerman, and Mickey Redmond, who all donned the red and white for a significant period of time. In addition to the on ice talent, the Petes have produced men who gone on to be members of Detroit’s executive team, like Bill Evo who served as president of the NHL franchise for ten months, and Scotty Bowman who from 1993-2001 orchestrated some of the dynasty’s most impressive seasons.
Matt explained the connection he had with the team, long before he signed a contract, “Its a good organization, I’m just from outside Windsor, Ontario. Downtown Detroit is about 25 minutes away from where I grew up so obviously it’s exciting when you have a chance to play for the team that grew up watching that you lived near.”
Much like the Red Wings, the Petes pride themselves on the rich history their players have produced, and boast a network woven throughout the hockey community, “Everyone you end up meeting always has a tie to the Petes,” described Matt.
While playing in “The Patch”, Puempel recalls suiting up alongside Eric Cornel, Jamie Doornbosch, and Liam Heelis, “Those are the guys when I was young helped me out a lot in adjusting to high school and they way of living [in junior hockey]” He continued, reflecting on the symbiotic relationship the team and city has with one another, “We were always practicing to be a good person and be a good member of the community and get involved that way. What people don’t see on the ice is really what’s important and makes you who you are.”
Puempel connected with current Petes at the Red Wings past training camp, including Pavel Gogolev, “They were nice guys and said a lot of good things about the organization.” Also present at Detroit’s training camp were centre Zach Gallant and defenceman Cole Fraser.
The Windsor native joked that he would continue and stay in touch with current general manager, Mike Oke so that he could slot into a role with the Petes upon his retirement – a reality far off in the distance for the 25 year old. Matt wouldn’t be the first Pete returning to his roots in junior hockey. Cory Stillman, Kurtis Foster and Kyle Raftis -to name a few- are alumni who have returned to the OHL in leadership positions.
Matt summarized his time in Peterborough and the foundation it has laid for his current hockey journey on a note of nostalgia, “I really enjoyed my time in Peterborough. The OHL was the best time of life.”