Matt Donovan’s fundraising efforts aid Oklahoma youth hockey

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Hockey has taken Matt Donovan to a number of places around the world. From Cedar Rapids to Denver to Long Island to Connecticut to Rochester to Frolunda to Nashville and Milwaukee, there’s one spot the longtime professional defenseman has never forgotten.

As the first born, raised, and trained Oklahoman to play in the NHL, Donovan has never left his roots behind. Nearly a decade after he began his professional career the 30-year-old defenseman, who recently re-signed with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, has continued to give back to his hometown. What was once an idea designed to help a poor college student has evolved into a money-raising effort to help youth hockey.

While in college Donovan held youth hockey camps and private lessons at Oklahoma City’s Blazers Ice Centre where his father, Larry, is the general manager. He kept at it after turning pro and an apparel line, Squatch Hockey, was introduced to further the fundraising efforts.

(The name Squatch Hockey was inspired by the television show “Finding Bigfoot” and from the large number of sasquatch sightings in Oklahoma.)

“I love doing the camps and helping out youth hockey wherever I can, especially in Oklahoma,” Donovan told NBC Sports.

Among those organizations benefiting include the Oklahoma Youth Hockey Association and the Zach Tays Scholarship Fund, which helps kids get involved and stay in hockey.

Donovan doesn’t do this alone. His wife, Hallie, fills apparel orders and promotes the brand through their social media channels, and lifelong friend Josh Berge, who also coaches the University of Oklahoma men’s hockey team, runs the camps and lessons during the AHL season.

The work Donovan has put in is paying off. Two of his former campers, Matt Henry (Dallas Stars U15) and Will Brenner (Cedar Rapids Roughriders, USHL) are making their way through junior hockey in hopes to following in his footsteps.

Growing up, Donovan looked up to the Central Hockey League’s Blazers, aspiring one day to be a professional just like them. Now, it’s kids in Oklahoma hoping to be the next Matt Donovan.

“I want to show kids if I could do it so can they,” said Donovan, who has started hosting camps in Milwaukee. “I grew up doing the same summer camps that they’re doing. When I turned pro that was where my focus turned, [to] helping these kids get to where I am.

“Even if they don’t get to where I am, I want them to be able to go to the rink and have fun and play the game that I grew up playing and loving.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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