Cardiff Devils and ice hockey fans all over the country are mourning former Devils captain, Scott Matzka, who has died aged 40.
He had been battling ALS, also known as Motor Neurone Disease, after being diagnosed four years ago and his survived by wife Catie and their two children.
In a statement on Facebook, his family confirmed the news no-one wanted to hear.
“Early this morning, Scott passed away surrounded by friends and family,” it said. “He left this world on his own terms refusing to allow ALS (or anyone) to dictate how he would skate his final shift.
“His tenacity, generous heart and sense of humour remained with him until the end, his final words perfectly punctuated by a high eyebrow raise, laughter in his eyes and a flash of that incredible smile.
“To say he will be missed is to drastically minimize what the loss of this extraordinary man represents…instead we remain grateful to have lived, loved and laughed with him.
“His magnetism was unparalleled, and to be in his presence was to witness grace, dedication and loyalty.
“Being in Scott’s presence was a feeling like no other. When he laughed, truly laughed it was infectious and impossible to resist, and his zeal for living was at times superhuman.
“For 40 years he gave his absolute best to every game, every job, every task and every relationship.
“He played to win and went into every faceoff resolute in his ability to emerge victorious. In this last challenge his victory was incontestable – through an indomitable will he spread his message of perseverance, compassion and empathy. We will never know his equal.”
Matzka’s career had seen him play in North America, Germany, Denmark and Sweden before Gerad Adams brought him to the UK to sign for the Devils in June 2010.
He stayed two years was made the captain in his second season, helping them to a second place finish in his first campaign and two play-off finals.
Scott returned to Cardiff in October 2016 as the Devils arranged a special night to raise funds and retire his jersey, also bringing together the 2010-11 team that went on a record-breaking run of wins.
Matzka spoke of his illness in a piece for The Players’ Tribune, speaking in length about his condition and how it impacted on his life and his family. You can read it here.
Tributes have poured in, including Cardiff Devils, who tweeted: “We’re heartbroken to learn about @ScottMatzka passing away today. An extraordinary human and teammate, a true warrior and inspiration. Our thoughts are with his family today and every day! Rest in peace Scott #MyTurn”
Former team-mates also shared their sadness at losing an old friend too. Manchester Storm coach Ryan Finnerty said: “RIP Old friend. No words can ever describe the person you are. We are all better people because of you and your Legacy will live on forever. God Bless @ScottMatzka Catie, Reese and Owen.”
Max Birbraer, now at Swindon Wildcats, added: “What a horrible day. Trying to come up with something but the words won’t come out. Today we’ve lost amazing person, good friend and a teammate. Devastated for his family and anyone who knew him. RIP @ScottMatzka. We will never forget you.”
On behalf of everyone at British Ice Hockey, we extend our deepest condolences to the Matzka family.