BY PAM SHEBEST
When rookie defenseman Matt Joyaux decided to turn pro, he did not have to look far for a team.
“My little brother (Mikey) being a freshman at Western (Michigan University) helped me come (to Kalamazoo),” the defenseman said.
But that was not the only reason he signed with the K-Wings.
“I had other options but I thought it sounded like a great fit,” he said. “I knew it was a great organization that’s been around for a while. I knew Booter (coach Nick Bootland) does a great job here and bringing on Marty (assistant coach Joel Martin), I was really excited.”
Mikey Joyaux was surprised that he figured into his brother’s decision to come to Kalamazoo.
“I liked the location since it’s close to home,” Mikey Joyaux said. “I liked the (WMU) program, the coaches and the history.”
About his brother following him, he added: “I knew him and my brother (Chris) got to play together in college, so it’s nice to be in the same town, even though we’re not on the same team.”
The brothers are from Bloomingdale, Ill., which means it is just a two-hour jaunt for their parents to watch them on the ice.
The frustrating news for the K-Wings rookie is that after just eight games, he was sidelined with injury and is still waiting for the release to get back in the game.
“It’s never fun to watch your team play,” Joyaux said. “You want to be on the ice and help them as much as you can.
“But everything happens for a reason. I’m a firm believer in that. I think it’s one thing out of my control so I’ll just play the waiting game and hope to start feeling as good as possible and get back on the ice.”
Joyaux is no stranger to patience this season.
He played in only three of the K-Wings first 13 games before becoming a regular, then getting injured.
“It’s funny,” Bootland said. “When these young guys come in they want to score to get in the lineup and really the reality is that if you can defend and can play your position well, that’s how you stay in the lineup.
“He was working on that and he’s been very patient because at the beginning of the year, we had 10 defensemen and I kept telling him he’d get his chance, trust me.
“This league makes things happen like that. You’ll get an opportunity. He’s willing to be patient, he’s willing to work hard and then when he got his chance, he played well.”
While injured, Joyaux sits in the stands with the other injured players and keeps stats.
“I usually like to take the faceoffs because it’s a lot less work,” he said, laughing.
Joyaux is the middle of three children, all boys and all defensemen.
His older brother, Chris, is currently playing with England’s Coventry Blaze in the EIHL (Elite Ice Hockey League), the top level in the United Kingdom.
The older two brothers played together at Miami (Ohio) University during the 2013-14 season, but Matt left during the next year to play a year for the Omaha Lancers in the USHL. He then played his final two years of college at The Ohio State University.
“We compete a little bit here and there, especially growing up,” Joyaux said of the brothers. “Now me and my older brother have gone through college and both graduated and it’s like, all right, let’s see what Mikey can do now.”
Joyaux and his younger brother never played on the same team, but Mikey has one-upped his brothers.
“I made it to two NCAA tournaments, made it to a Frozen Four (with OSU),” Matt Joyaux said. “Chris, I believe, made two NCAA tournaments but never a Frozen Four, so I’ve got that on him.
“But Mikey, growing up, won a national championship with the Chicago Mission (Premier Tier 1 AAA youth hockey) so he kinda holds that over us.
I made it to the finals twice, but lost both times. He takes that one.”
Because both the K-Wings and WMU have games most weekends, the brothers have not had a lot of chances to watch each other play.
“Whenever he plays, I always look at the scoresheet,” Mikey Joyaux said. “After home games, I text him to see how it went.”
Going from college to the pros is a big adjustment for rookies, Matt Joyaux said.
“In college, you wake up in the morning, go straight to the rink, practice, head upstairs for a lunch they prepare for you and then you head out all day to class until about 6 p.m.,” he said. “Your schedule is filled up with stuff to do all day long.
“With the pro life style, there’s a lot of free time. If you don’t have a roommate, it’s a lot of being on your own and it’s a lot of adjustments because I’m used to doing things all day long and having a schedule to follow.
“Now I just wake up, come to practice then figure out something to do the rest of the day once I leave the rink.”
Bootland said the injured players are still part of the team in spite of not dressing for games.
“He’s still comes to practice every day, he’s still in here for video sessions,” Bootland said of Joyaux. “He doesn’t travel on the road.
“Most of the time we leave the injured guys at home when we travel on the road just to create more space for the guys on the bus.”
Joyaux considered law school after college, but could not give up the game he started playing at age 4. Now he is on a different career path once his playing days are over.
“I always wanted to go to law school but now, being done with school, it would be really hard to go back,” he said. “But you never know.
“I would like to pursue and do like my dad did and start his own company and go from there. Work as hard as you can to make it as best possible.”
But for now, hockey is Joyaux’s focus and that is what drew Bootland to signing him.
“We wanted to find quality defensemen,” Bootland said. “He’s a player that in school played a lot bigger than his stature (5-foot-7). He’s a guy who has a high compete level and high character level that we were looking for that we felt would fit in our culture.
“He’s a puck-moving defenseman. He can use his speed and his escapability to make breakout passes and simplify.
“I think he has some offensive upside. I think he’s still trying to find that as a professional, trying to work on his game and work on his craft like that.”
While the two older Joyaux brothers have shared the ice, the younger two may still have a chance to play on the same team.
“Every college player’s dream is to play pro,” Mikey Joyaux said. “I’m still a freshman, so we’ll see what happens.”