Matt Dumba’s mom laughs as she tells the story of her 8-year-old son running into the house because he was going to get to play a hockey game at the Saddledome in Calgary.
“I get to jump over the boards today,” Treena Dumba recalls her excited boy screaming. “I go, ‘Pardon?’ He yells, ‘I get to jump over the boards today.’ I said, ‘Matty, Flames players jump over the boards because they’re 6 feet, honey. You’re not tall enough to jump over the boards yet. They’re really high.’ ”
Twelve years later, that funny memory popped into Treena’s head as she and husband, Charles, sat with pride and watched their son sprint up and down the ice during the Wild’s 3-0 Game 3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.
Season-ticket holders of the Calgary Flames, the Dumbas couldn’t get over the electricity inside Xcel Energy Center and can’t wait to experience it all over again Wednesday when the Wild aims to take a 3-1 series lead.
“It was electrifying in the building,” Treena said while she watched practice Tuesday. “We’re excited, and not just when Matty does something. We’re excited for the whole team. How can you not be?”
The arena has become Treena and Charles’ home away from home. They’ve gotten to know many of the staffers. Tuesday morning, Treena surprised security guard Bob Paulsen with a chocolate-glazed doughnut and a Coke. They later sent Matt up to Paulsen’s station at Gate 1 with an autographed stick.
“The organization has been amazing,” Treena said. “To Mathew, to us as a family, just amazing. The fans have been incredible. The city has been so much fun to explore. We always wanted Matty to go to a hockey city and this is definitely a hockey city.”
Earlier this season, Charles got to experience the Wild’s father-son trip and quickly bonded with Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula’s dads. Tomi Haula’s English is great, but Vesa Granlund still struggles with the language. Yet, they were like the Three Amigos all trip to Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, never separating, always yucking it up and laughing. In fact, Granlund’s parents have spent time with the Dumbas this season in Calgary while visiting their other NHL-playing son, Markus.
“They’re just like us, right?” Charles said. “They talk about the same things, worry about the same things.”
“Like [Monday] night, we’re sitting next to Marco Scandella’s mom [Sandra],” Treena said. “When Matty does anything, she’s all excited. When Marco shot the puck, she’s not breathing. Same with me. When Marco did anything, I got excited but was nervous about everything Matty did.”
When the Blues’ Steve Ott attacked Scandella in the waning seconds, Treena told a frightened Sandra Scandella, “Don’t worry. Kids are resilient.”
Dumba, 20, has become an integral member of the Wild’s blue line and the type of fast, up-tempo hockey the Wild wants to play. He led all NHL rookie defensemen with a plus-13 this season, was third with eight goals and fifth with 16 points.
“A few years ago, he was a wild card. He’s grown a lot,” said veteran defenseman Ryan Suter, who a couple of training camps ago called Dumba, “That No. 55.”
“Offensively, we knew he had it when we first saw him. He makes plays, can shoot, can skate, is tough. And the guys love him. Just an awesome kid. But it’s defensively where his game is getting better every game.”
In Game 1, Dumba scored his first career playoff goal on a power play.
“We were all around the TV, and it was almost surreal, like, ‘Did he just score?’ ” said “Auntie” Dawn Matthews-Nichols.
Nobody could have anticipated Dumba, whose 17-year-old brother Kyle is a goalie on the Western Hockey League Calgary Hitmen, would have such an impact when the Wild assigned him to Iowa, its American Hockey League affiliate, in November.
“It was a process he had to go through,” Charles Dumba said. “We talked about that with him, that most guys get through it and you’ll be a better player for it. ‘Go down there, and the harder you work, the faster you’ll get back here.’ It just worked out. When he looks back on it, he thanks God he went through it. He knows it made him a better player.”
Added Treena, “Great things happen if you have work ethic. It’s about working hard and shining and learning the little things and being coachable.”
Matt Dumba said he takes a second every now and then to “think about how cool this is.”
“This is where I wanted to be. I never took my mind off that, even when I was in Iowa,” he said. “Now that I’m in the midst of a heated playoff series, it’s been a lot of fun. It’s fun going out and playing in these passionate, high-intensity games. These are the type of games I love to play in.”
Dumba is an affable player with a terrific personality. He looks like he’ll be a fan favorite in Minnesota for years.
“We hope so,” Charles said. “We love the city. It’s a great spot for him.”
They’re also excited their son has been taken under the wing by players such as Jordan Leopold, his 34-year-old defense partner whom Dumba used to root for as a kid when Leopold played for the Flames.
“We were talking to Jordan about all the little connections that Mathew has,” Treena said. “Jordan’s youngest [child] is named Kyle. Mathews’s brother’s name is Kyle. There’s 14 years between Jordan and Mathew and 14 years between Mathew and Kyle. And then Devan Dubnyk, Mathew and he were both born in Regina, they both lived in the same community in Calgary [Scenic Acres]. Devan’s a goalie, Kyle’s a goalie.
“There’s so many little intricate connections that have bonded the boys and makes this just right. As a parent, it’s nice to know that Matty is surrounded by such great mentors and great people, not just on the ice but off the ice.”
The Dumbas hope the Wild and Flames can meet in the Western Conference finals, especially since they already own Flames tickets.
“Trying to find enough would be the only problem,” Charles said, laughing. “They’re going for a premium.”