Arizona natives take on Montana hockey

Many people find it difficult to adjust to a cross-country migration, but Marvin Simmons’ move to Great Falls encompassed not only coming to a frigid climate from Phoenix, but also leaving his family at home.

Simmons, a senior at C. M. Russell High School, moved to Montana this year to play for the Great Falls Americans high school hockey team. The center forward on the ice lives with a host family that has a son who also plays for the Americans. Simmons began to attend CMR and play for the club hockey team after learning of the opportunity to play for the Americans from a friend’s dad.

“It’s cheaper and has better hockey, so I opted to come,” said Simmons of Great Falls. Since arriving, Simmons said he has played on the high school team as well as participating in seven games with the professional squad from the Great Falls Junior A team.

The senior said he will remain at CMR for the rest of the school year, even though the hockey season ends soon with the state tournament. Simmons said he thinks the team will win.

“We have great team chemistry and work well together,” he said. Simmons also said he has enjoyed living in Great Falls.

“Everybody here is so nice and welcoming,” he said, adding that he likes the support the team receives from other high school students. Simmons said his parents have only been able to watch a few of his games, and he especially misses his mom and her home cooking.

Simmons isn’t the only Arizona player on the Americans though. In fact, Dylan Mattfeldt played on the same hockey team as Simmons in Phoenix before coming to Great Falls this year.

“My dad grew up here, and he made a deal with the junior coach to come up here and play for the high school team,” Mattfeldt said. The sophomore now plays forward on the team and occasionally practices with the professional Junior Team while living with his aunt. Mattfeldt said the team has had success and that “it doesn’t matter how much technique one person has, it is about the whole team.”

According to Mattfeldt, his club hockey team in Arizona was unorganized with no set times for practices. Playing hockey also is several thousand dollars more expensive in Phoenix than it is in Great Falls.

Still, playing hockey in a cold and distant place from home has its challenges.

“Probably the hardest part is staying away from family,” Mattfeldt, a forward on the team, also said he will stay at CMR for the school year and then will go home in June.

Differing from Mattfeldt is senior Malachi Bushey, who plays on the Americans but will be returning home to Tucson at the conclusion of the hockey season this month.

“I got asked to come up here in late May and decided it’s a better opportunity,” Bushey said of how he decided to come to Great Falls and play hockey. Bushey also said of Great Falls that “the coaching is better here and I’m skating more here than I would have at home.”

Overall, all three Arizona natives have found their Montana experience enjoyable and look forward to the upcoming state tournament, which the Americans believe they can win.