By Kevin Stone, Contributing Writer
MARLBOROUGH – Marlborough High School senior Matt Farrell was awarded the Hobey Baker High School Character Award alongside athletic director Jeff Rudzinsky and his hockey coach, Mike O’Brien, prior to a Panthers’ baseball game May 17.
Farrell will be heading to UMass Amherst this fall, but first, he took some time to speak about what the award means to him. For those that don’t know, the actual Hobey Baker Award is given to the top college hockey player each season, which makes the high school award that much more special for a hockey lifer like Farrell.
“Since the age of five, I’ve had a stick in hand and feet in skates what seemed like every single day until my final high school game,” he said in a recent email. “I’ve never been one to seek personal awards and recognition; it’s never been the reason I strap up my helmet and hit the ice. To be in the same sentence as a hockey legend like Hobey Baker is an honor that I will never forget.”
Being able to share the award with his family also meant the world to Farrell.
“It’s important to me that my parents, who stressed the fact that being a competitor and wanting to win does not go hand in hand with a bad attitude and poor sportsmanship, saw me receive this award,” he said.
Character awards are the ones that are truly earned, which is something both O’Brien and Rudzinsky believe Farrell has done throughout his athletic career as a Panther.
“Matt has shown tremendous leadership throughout his high school years,” Rudzinsky said. “Being a three-sport athlete (golf, hockey and baseball) has given him many chances to lead. One of his qualities that is most admirable is the ‘lead by example’ mentality he has. He is that kid that is always early to practice and always has a smile on his face and ready to go. He is a tireless worker and that becomes contagious as his teammates want to match that intensity and work ethic. He was always someone I would go to if needed some help or needed a message in the locker room to be ‘heard’ by his teammates.”
“Matt has been an outstanding player for four years for us,” added O’Brien. “He is a leader on the ice and in the classroom. His work ethic is infectious, and he has made a lot of players better because of that. He always has a positive attitude. Matt has shown the underclassmen what it takes to be a great teammate, and that has been our transition into becoming a better team as a whole. Matt has outstanding hockey skill, but his leadership is where he has set the bar for years to come.”
Once at UMass, Farrell will have a rare opportunity to get adjusted to college life with a familiar face by his side as he begins his next endeavors.
“I will be rooming with long-time friend and teammate Ben Hamann,” he explained. “UMass has always been my top choice. I couldn’t be happier with my decision.”
Most kids Farrell’s age simply want to get to college before actually planning out the rest of their life for the next 40 years. Farrell is the complete opposite. The future Minuteman already knows what he wants to do after trying to acquire his real estate license while majoring in finance.
He may not be able to play for the defending national champion hockey team in Amherst, but he’d surely like to put all of those leadership skills to good use.
“My plans for hockey seem to follow the path of most, potentially club or intramural hockey at UMASS followed by 40+ years of men’s league,” he joked.
“I certainly plan on coaching a youth hockey team, and I will certainly continue watching the Bruins for the rest of my life,” he added. “Hockey has been something that I look forward to, no matter the context, practice or game, watching or playing. I love how the game has shaped me, and I look forward to what the future holds.”
More importantly, Farrell’s award and impact on the program will now raise the bar even higher for future Marlborough athletes.
“Absolutely,” said O’Brien when asked if Farrell will be the poster child for future teams in terms of leadership and accountability. “I will most certainly be referring to Matt’s leadership to future teams. It has been my pleasure to have had the opportunity to be his coach for the last four years. Matt may be graduating this year, but he definitely will not be forgotten. I wish him all the best.”