Matej Blümel’s hockey resume is already looking strong. The 6-foot freshman from the Czech Republic played for his home country at the 2017-18 World Junior Championships, recording two goals and two assists. For his USHL club, Blümel was one of the top scorers in the league this past season with 30 goals and 30 assists in 58 games, according to Elite Prospects.
However, he still has a lot of work to do to catch up to his father, Petr. The elder Blümel was on the ice for three Olympic Games as well as a World Championship. But here’s the thing: Petr didn’t take the ice as a player. Instead, he’s a referee.
Petr was a lineman during the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympics on the men’s side, most notably officiating the 2010 bronze medal game between Finland and Slovakia. And while officials in any sport generally aren’t the most well-liked bunch, it’s the opposite for Petr.
“He’s really popular back home,” Matej smiled.
As a referee, Petr can skate as well as anyone. So when his career began to wind down and Matej’s started to blossom, Petr became his son’s personal coach and, naturally, coached him into a strong skater. With that base, Matej developed high-end speed that turned him into one of the top hockey prospects in 2019.
“That’s my biggest advantage,” Blümel said of his speed. “Me and my dad, we always tried to work on my speed and my skating...he helped me a lot with my first step so we always tried to improve my speed and I want to still improve.”
That ability to blaze down the ice is also what got him noticed by the Edmonton Oilers, who drafted him in the fourth round (100th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. While Blümel knew the possibility of getting picked that day, he didn’t sit by the phone all day stressing about it. Instead, he hosted a barbecue with some friends.
“We had a really nice day, so I said ‘Hey let’s come to my house, have a barbecue, have fun.’ We were watching the draft, like it could happen. We just came to my house, we were having fun and then it happened.”
However, it’s possible he doesn’t get that call from the Oilers if not for UConn. Without the Huskies, it’s unlikely Blümel would even be playing in the United States to begin with.
“Me and my advisor were talking before a tournament two years ago. I said I’d like to try to play in the USHL and then go to college,” he said. “But I didn’t play well at the tournament so nobody really wanted to have me on their team.”
Then, UConn associate head coach Joe Pereira came calling. He wanted Blümel — but needed him to develop. So not long after the USHL passed on Blümel, Pereira pulled some strings and landed him on the Waterloo Black Hawks. From there, things moved quickly.
“I packed all my stuff, was in the US in like two weeks so it was pretty quick,” he said. “That was probably one of the best decisions of my life.”
After two successful seasons, Blümel is finally on-campus as a member of the Huskies. And despite being over 4,000 miles from his home of Tabor in the Czech Republic, there are already a handful of familiar faces at UConn.
Blümel played with fellow freshman Vladislav Firstov in Waterloo and met another freshman, Carter Berger, during the World Hockey Challenge last winter. On top of that, he already knows fellow countrymen Jachym Kondelik and Tomas Vomacka from back home.
Having been committed to the school for two years now along with knowing a handful of guys on the team, Blümel is plenty excited to get going. But after spending the past year focusing just on hockey, Blümel is also excited about being a student as well.
“I was really excited for it and I like it too. I haven’t been in school for a year and the end of last season I was bored because I didn’t have anything to do,” he said. “So I like it, but the first week was tough. But hopefully, all us freshmen get to know the new things and it’s going to get better and better.”
And despite being here for just a short time, Blumel is already settling in nicely.
“I love it here,” he said. “All the coaching staff, all the boys — I can say family. It’s a really good group of boys so I love it.”