After long hiatus, Joe reconnects with hockey roots

hockey team
Junior Braden Joe has been playing hockey since childhood, but only recently joined Chapman’s team by reaching out to captain Jack Matura over text. Photo by Cassidy Keola, staff photographer

Braden Joe’s earliest memories of hockey were born in an old warehouse in Massachusetts, on a half-sized rink with horrible-quality ice. He hated playing there, but he said he’d be lying if he wasn’t sad when the building was torn down.

Hockey has been a part of Joe’s life ever since he was two years old – he said he doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t know how to skate. His father has been his coach since he was just a toddler and in the winters when their backyard ice rink would freeze from the Massachusetts weather, they’d go out together and practice.

“We’ d get up for two hours before school and just skate around,” Joe said. “I’ve loved having that connection through my family.”

But when he first came to Chapman as a film production major, dorm life, no car and being on production sets each weekend made finding free time for his sport difficult. As a sophomore, those same factors persisted. The timing was never quite right, so Joe hung up his skates.

But his trip home last winter offered him a chance to reconnect with the sport the same way he first did when he was young – through family. He took trips to attend his sister’s hockey games and went with his family to watch an old teammate of his father, Bruce Cassidy, coach the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins.

“‘Gosh, something’s missing,’ I thought. This still matters to me,” Joe said. “This still 100 percent feels like part of who I am, and I’ve neglected that for the last two years.”

This past spring, while studying abroad in London at the University of Roehampton, Joe texted a friend about how much he missed being on the ice. Joe’s friend connected him with the hockey team’s captain, Jack Matura, a junior history major. The two talked on and off throughout his semester abroad; Matura told Joe that if he was serious about joining, he was welcome to be a part of the team. When he returned, his plans became reality.

“When I got back to the U.S., I said, ‘Hey, it’s Braden. I’m back on my U.S. number,’ and he said, ‘Perfect, I added you to the group chat,’” Joe said. “Then all of the guys were like: ‘Awesome, welcome to the team.’”

Harrison Lowe, a sophomore business administration major, is enthusiastic about having Joe on the team.

“If you get the captain’s approval, that’s big,” Lowe said. “That’s who you’re going to be on the ice with and that’s who you’re going to look up to for plays – it’s awesome for Braden.”

Head coach Tradon Reid shared Lowe’s eagerness about having Joe on the team this year. He said Joe’s initiative in joining the team was refreshing.

“Braden has not only found a way to get on the team, but he himself has already recruited three more players and I hadn’t even met him prior to that,” Reid said. “Those are qualities that we look for in a player and he exemplifies that perfectly.”

Joe is joining the team at a time of transition. The team won the California Collegiate Hockey League Championship on Feb. 21, 2016, with a win over the University of California, Santa Barbara, but hasn’t won a single game over the past two seasons. One of Joe’s first experiences with Chapman’s hockey team came while working as an assistant on a friend’s thesis film.

“The only time I heard anything about them was when I was shooting a Chapman thesis film on ice. We were making the film and I bumped into a (parent of an opposing team member) afterwards who was watching the rink next to us,” Joe said. “I asked, ‘How’s Chapman’s team? I heard they won in 2016.’ He laughed and said, ‘They did. We just beat them 14-0.’”

Nonetheless, Joe said he was extremely excited for the season – in particular, the variety of backgrounds amongst players. The Chapman hockey team is co-ed and Joe said he appreciates its diversity. Lowe knows firsthand about the sport’s ability to bring people together, he said.

“There’s a bigger scheme to hockey,” Lowe said. “No matter where you’re from, no matter what your background is, it brings everyone together.”

When Joe left home and came to Chapman, he put his playing career on pause. He filled his time in other ways: joining a band, pursuing his film production major and introducing freshmen to campus as an orientation leader. Despite all of that, he felt like something was missing. Now, after being accepted into the team, he has a chance to get back to his roots.

“I’m going to be able to reclaim a part of my identity that I haven’t seen in many years,” Joe said.