If there's one thing Rachelle Matisz won't miss about the Battlefords North Stars athletic therapist job, it's doing laundry.
Often, after returning from a long road trip, she could be found at the rink in the wee hours of the morning, changing loads in the washing machine and working on what was probably no more than two hours of sleep. Now that Matisz is going back to school for a post-degree nursing program, North Stars head coach Brandon Heck said that kind of work ethic makes her irreplaceable.
"She went over and above her job. She made up schedules to keep us organized. Kept me sane," Heck said at the team's year-end banquet last week. "She truly doesn't get the recognition she deserves. We've dealt with a lot of injuries this year, and her expertise and care helped get guys back playing sooner than others. It's going to be impossible to replace her."
Matisz said her job often didn't feel like work.
"As cliché as that sounds, I'm not a nine-to-five, sit at a desk kind of person," Matisz said. "As much as there are long hours, at the end of the day I'm grateful that I'm getting paid to watch hockey and I'm grateful that these players know me and I know them. It's not just random interaction. I love getting to know them. Not only being involved and being here long hours, but the guys know they can come to me with anything and there's that level of trust and that level of respect."
Last summer, Matisz wasn't intending on staying in hockey. She had left her athletic therapist job with the Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League to be closer to home in Saskatoon.
"I was just reevaluating. Do I want to work hockey? Do I want to go into the clinical side of athletic therapy?" Matisz said. "Then I found this last-minute. Within a two-week span it went from me applying to me accepting the job ... I think I would have actually really regretted not working this last season."
Matisz said she will miss the relationships she's built with the players and staff, which she also called the best part of her job.
"As much as these guys live and breathe hockey, a lot of them, they come into my trainer's room and they sit and we don't even begin to talk hockey or anything on the ice. We just have that real conversation about what's going on in their lives," she said. "We all had a very good working relationship together."
After three years in Manitoba, one in Alberta, and one with the North Stars, Matisz knows it's time to move on. Athletic therapy positions in the province don't exactly grow on trees, which is why Matisz said she is making the move to nursing.
"There's not as many opportunities to make a go of it," she said. "And if I do choose to move somewhere else, there's always going to be a nursing job wherever I go."
Matisz said she hopes to volunteer her time in the athletic department while she's back in school.
"I know I'll never be able to be a student trainer with a team full-time when I'm going through this program, but if I can help out here and there it'd be a great addition," she said. "I'll still be a North Stars fan next year."
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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