Matthew Wuest was passionate about hockey, journalism and computers. From THN freelancer to capgeek founder, he followed his dream and made it to the big league. He died Thursday at age 35.
The first time I crossed paths with Matthew Wuest came in the summer of 2001 when the hockey world was in a quiet zone. It was mid-August and most hockey executives, players, even the staff at THN were enjoying vacations and outdoor patios.
Just a few weeks earlier, we had closed the pages on our annual Yearbook. By the middle of the month, it was on newsstands and in mailboxes. In short order, an email came to me from email@example.com. It was just about the most respectful, well-written complaint letter I’ve ever received. Matthew Wuest concisely explained who he was – a passionate fan of hockey who ran a site which monitored the progress of Detroit prospects – then diplomatically transitioned into a polite, but well-grounded complaint. He wasn’t so sure 19-year-old Swedish center prospect Par Backer should be ranked ahead of 23-year-old Russian pivot Pavel Datsyuk. They were sixth and eighth on the Red Wings’ top 10. And while he’s mentioning it, Datsyuk should probably be ahead of Jesse Wallin and Stefan Liv as well.
The email then delved into the attributes of said players and was written with such clarity and authority that I wrote Matthew back and explained the process of THN having to rely on the opinions of scouts to establish rankings for prospects we haven’t seen. We had a series of back-and-forths in the ensuing weeks and I came to learn Matthew was a 22-year-old university graduate with a computer science and journalism degree. He was passionate about both and keen to get started in the industry.
“If you are ever in need of input on the Detroit Red Wings or any of their prospects, please do not hesitate to reach me,” he wrote. “I would appreciate the opportunity to contribute.”
So for our Draft Preview issue in 2002, I gave Matthew the opportunity to write our sneak peek feature for the 2003 draft. It required that he canvas scouts to see which 17-year-olds are hot commodities a year out. He jumped at the opportunity and delivered a winner, providing solid analysis and quoting scouts on the likes of Eric Staal, Milan Michalek, Nathan Horton and Dustin Brown. Wuest had instantly won himself a freelance gig at The Hockey News and he contributed regularly the next six or seven years in the pages of Future Watch, Draft Preview and our prospects section.
We were crushed to hear the news yesterday that Matthew passed away at the age of 35, succumbing to colon cancer. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the Wuest family.
After his creative industry start at The Hockey News, Wuest eventually found full-time employment in his hometown Halifax writing sports for The Daily News and Metro Halifax. Then in 2009, Matthew executed on his other passion by creating the website capgeek.com, which soon became the go-to site for hockey fans, executives and media alike. Through his established connections in the hockey community, Wuest was able to gather information and present it in a way that was easy to navigate and packed with valuable information. In our 2011 edition of 100 People of Power and Influence, Wuest came in at No. 98 because of what he was providing the hockey world.
When the notice went up on capgeek in January that the site was shutting down permanently because of Matthew’s deteriorating health, our hearts sunk to a depth only exceeded by yesterday’s news.
Not a day went by the past couple of months that you didn’t see a posting in some website’s comments section, or hear it mentioned in some office, or some press box, or, presumably, some NHL executive office: “I miss capgeek.” In reality, that’s the hockey world’s way of saying, “We miss you Matthew.”
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN