Perhaps no figure in sports is as beloved as the scrappy, blue-collar, fourth-line hockey grinder, the type who gets in fights, bleeds, claws for everything, gives great quotes, scores occasional goals, and conducts plenty of interviews.
This isn’t meant as a slight on Matt Hendricks, who just left the Caps, or on his fan-and-media-favorite predecessors, like Matt Bradley, for example. It’s just how the world works.
Many of you have no doubt read Tracee Hamilton’s recent farewell column on Hendricks, who was one of her go-to voices in the dressing room. One passage:
Hendricks always knew what to say. I’m not going to lie: I’ll miss him, and so will other reporters. The Caps’ locker room is a mix of elite stars who mystically appear for interviews and then disappear into the nether regions of Kettler and Verizon, and guys such as Hendricks, and Brooks Laich, and Troy Brouwer, who stand and deliver.
I will miss seeing Hendricks — Matty or Hendy, in Caps-speak — after practice because he always greeted me before I had a chance to even say hello. That’s not typical athlete behavior, even among hockey players. He was unfailingly polite, but he was more than that: He was genuinely friendly. He kidded. He laughed. And he was honest. He was a guy you would go to if you wanted to know what was wrong with the team or what was happening with another player. He was analytical without being critical of his teammates.
And so on. But that, as it turns out, was nothing. Because 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen — an admitted admirer of Hendricks — decided to call in to the winger’s farewell interview with Bill Rohland on Friday, and things got pretty passionate. Audio here.
Paulsen: “It’s a bittersweet day in D.C. As you know, I try to be credible, I try to be above fandom as a broadcaster on 106.7 The Fan, but some men just don’t allow you to do that. One of those men is Matt Hendricks. So Matt, I want to say, on behalf of the fanbase, thank you very much and best of luck to you.”
Hendricks: “Thank you Grant, I appreciate it, and I appreciate all your support and all the support I got from everyone in D.C. over the years. It’s been nothing but positive, and I’m really gonna miss you guys.”
Paulsen: “You made it easy. Just so you know, we’re best friends. You don’t know it yet. Like, if I could travel around in a car – my ultimate dream day is just like waking up in onesies with you and having breakfast, and then me, you, Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington just travel around in a car with our windows down all day. I don’t know what we do or what ends up happening. Maybe we just circle the Beltway constantly. Like, you’re in shotgun, and I’m in the backseat. Every now and then I tap your shoulder and whisper something to you. Denzel Washington’s there. I don’t know what we talk about, but that’s how the day goes.”
Hendricks: “Sounds like quite a treat.”
Paulsen: “So we’ll do that one day. Don’t worry about it.”
Sure, Paulsen was joking. A little bit. Which is what he’ll argue when Hendricks requests that restraining order.
But anyhow, the general media theme was “classy stand-up stand-up classy guy will be missed.” Even from those media members who don’t dream of whispering into his ear.
Best of luck to @MattHendy26 in Nashville. A true class act to cover during the past three seasons.
— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) July 5, 2013
— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) July 5, 2013
. @MattHendy26 was one of the best/nicest guys I’ve ever covered, good luck to him in Nashville
— Sky Kerstein (@SkyKerstein) July 5, 2013
— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) July 5, 2013
Matt Hendricks’s value to the #Caps cannot be quantified. They lose a heart-and-soul player with an invaluable locker room presence.
— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) July 5, 2013
On the radio this morning I heard how much @MattHendy26 is gonna be missed in DC. Congrats and thanks for the last few years
— Ross Detwiler (@NationalDet) July 8, 2013