Matteo continues ice hockey career in — Japan?Former Windjammer standout decides to take his game way down East
Tokyo, Japan — Chase Matteo of Camden knew he wanted to continue his ice hockey career after high school. What he did not know was that he would be on the ice on the other side of the world.
The 19-year-old Matteo, who graduated from Camden Hills Regional High School in 2016, has taken his game to the next level as he plays overseas at Waseda University in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.
Matteo, a forward, was a four-year player for the Windjammers and also was the Hobey Baker High School Character Award Recipient during his senior year. He scored 14 goals and added seven assists on the ice his final season.
Matteo, son of Heidi and Steve Matteo, said he has “no good reason” for deciding to matriculate overseas, but first found out about the university as a seventh-grader at Camden-Rockport Middle School.
“I became incredibly fascinated with ice hockey in foreign countries because they have it all over the world in countries people wouldn't expect like New Zealand, Thailand, South Africa, Venezuela, and the list goes on and on,” he said. “Since I loved Japan, obviously that was one of the first I researched.”
In Japan, the collegiate ice hockey season goes from March to January — a 10-month season — while with school beginning in April and running until February.
Matteo said the season “is split up so we have a spring tournament, summer cup, fall tournament and the national tournament in January.” They also play annual friendly games with Korea University.
Camden Hills coach Karl Enroth said Matteo “is a very determined and committed student-athlete” and that the “athletic expectations and rigors are very high.”
“Ever since Chase was about 8 years old he has wanted to go to school in Japan and possibly play hockey there,” Enroth said. “I know probably a lot of people doubted that this would ever happen and perhaps just a young boy's farfetched dream soon to pass.”
Matteo said the “culture is very different over here, especially on the sports teams” and that the language barrier is admittedly an adjustment, despite the fact that offer full degrees in English, “which I certainly needed.”
“They have a hierarchy system and you really need to show respect to those in higher grades than you,” he said. “Everyone was very welcoming of me as a foreigner on the team and understood I didn't understand culture initially.”
In Japan, ice hockey is played under the auspices of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and is played “on a much wider sheet of ice and is way faster and more skilled than in North America.”
Matteo emailed then-Waseda coach Takehiko Kusajima as a 13-year-old about the chance of going there to play hockey and said he “couldn’t be more thankful because he actually emailed back to a random kid all the way from Maine.”
Matteo said the two remained in email contact over the years and, while Kusajima resigned as coach in 2015, he still helped Matteo get through the barriers to get to Tokyo.
“We messaged throughout the years, recruited me [and] helped me apply to the school,” said Matteo of Kusajima. “I can’t be thankful enough for his help. I wouldn’t be here without him.”
Matteo, who came back for a month in February and helped with the Windjammers at the end of the regular season and into their playoffs, said he had “a fantastic four years” at Camden Hills and sees himself coming back to the states after graduation.
“I definitely want to use what I’ve learned in Japan and possibly work for a Japanese company in America or a company in America that does a lot of business in Japan,” he said.