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Inside the Sabres: Reviewing drive, passion of video coach Mat Myers

Mat Myers couldn't help it. He was living a dream bigger than his imagination, so of course he was going to smile every day.

Phil Housley noticed. There was something about Nashville's new video coordinator, a positivity that drew in the Predators' assistant coach.

"We built a unique relationship, Mat and I," Housley said. "Every time he came in in the morning, he had a smile on his face and was ready to go to work. We had a lot of great times."

There were dinners, concerts, coaching sessions and a Stanley Cup finals run.

"We had this immediate mutual respect for each other," Myers said. "We kind of formed this bond that was pretty close."

When Housley became coach of the Buffalo Sabres last spring, he brought Myers with him as the team's video coach.

"I saw how hard he worked and what he invested with Nashville," Housley said. "I can see the investment that he's making here. It's a great opportunity for him. It's a great opportunity for us because of what he's done up to this point and the work he puts into it."

The story of their friendship is compelling enough, especially for anyone who sees Housley brighten when talking about his pal. But there's more to the story, and it's what meets the eye.

Myers stands out in a sport where heights and weights are meticulously measured. The 27-year-old was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism that occurs in approximately one in every 27,000 births. It's rarer still for someone with it to work in hockey.

But the size disparity is what started Myers on his path to the NHL. He grew up in a New Hampshire hockey family, and he loved being on the ice. At age 12, he was set to advance to a checking league. His dad, Marty, pulled him aside and said it was time to retire rather than endure the contact and physicality.

"He was concerned about my safety," Myers said. "It was obviously the right decision. It was a tough pill to swallow at the time, but in the long run it was the right decision."

Can't stop smiling

A post shared by Mathew Myers (@mathew_myers) on

While the games disappeared, Myers' love of hockey grew. He's the only one in the family with dwarfism, and his two younger brothers continued playing. Marty Myers is one of the most accomplished high school coaches in New Hampshire, so Mat kept coming to the rink.

"I've always watched and found other ways to stay involved," he said. "Coaching has always been a big part of me. My dad always allowed me into the locker room. I always admired the way he developed cultures and kind of brought teams together and motivated and built teams on and off the ice.

"Watching hockey from the stands, I've done it for a very, very long time, and now the fact that I'm watching it on video every day, it's just been something that's been easier because I've got a knowledge and experience of it that you wouldn't think someone at my age really has. I've been doing it my entire life, just watching hockey."

He really liked watching it at the University of New Hampshire. He was a season-ticket holder. When it came time to pick a college, he chose the home of the Wildcats.

Myers inquired about becoming a student-manager for the hockey team, but coach Dick Umile told him there were already four on the staff. Undeterred, Myers attended the team's practices and befriended forward Bobby Butler. The captain introduced Myers to Umile, and the coach added Myers to the group.

During his sophomore year, Myers saw the opportunity to expand his role. The tech-savvy millennial taught himself how to use video scouting software, and he became the Wildcats' video coordinator.

After graduating with a communications degree in 2013, Myers spent two seasons as the video coordinator for the U.S. women's national team. He jumped to the Predators as amateur scouting video coordinator in 2015.

"Mat was awesome, just a hard-working kid," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said in KeyBank Center. "It was his first crack at the NHL, and he just did a terrific job. He works countless hours. He did for us, and I'm sure he's doing the same here."

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One of the highlights of the countless hours in Nashville was bonding with Housley.

"Working with Phil has been awesome," Myers said. "He's very honest. He's very respectful, and he's very passionate for what he does with his players and staff.

"He's a hockey geek, and I'm a hockey geek, too, so it's just worked really, really well with the respect and trust that we've had that's been built because of it. It's good. It's fun."

Myers is certainly enjoying his expanded role in Buffalo. With the Predators, he compiled clips on opposing goalies and centers' faceoff tendencies. This year, he's widened his focus to the five-on-five play.

"I'm preparing our coaches on what we should expect to see from our opponent by watching the past three games," he said.

The NHL uploads all of its games into a digital database, and everything is searchable whether it's goals, faceoffs, hits or rushes. Myers examines breakouts and forechecks. He analyzes offensive-zone cycles and neutral-zone tendencies.

"I take all that information and try to condense it as much as possible for a package that we would show our players and prepare our players with," Myers said. "Just because it's my world, you want to show everyone everything. One of my bigger responsibilities, I think, is trying to provide a resource that's valuable and that people are going to absorb. Too much is never a good thing, so it's trying to find the right clip, the right information to give to the players."

He's found a receptive audience among the younger players.

"The league is so fast and so skilled right now that everyone is trying to find that extra inch or that extra competitive advantage," Myers said. "You've got guys now that are coming in asking for shifts and asking for specific things. They want to watch not only stuff of themselves but of other players, other role models that they kind of look up to.

"I pass around iPads for players to access whatever video they like. We can provide them with anything they need. A lot of the job is very rewarding when you see what you're teaching executed out on the ice. When the guys see it afterward, too, it gives them the reassurance."

Although he stopped playing more than a decade ago, Myers gets in the game on occasion. For any controversial goal, he quickly rewinds the video and informs Housley whether he should issue a coach's challenge.

"We have 20 to 30 seconds to make up our minds, analyze it and to make the call," Myers said. "We've got a really good system in place where we're able to evaluate and talk it out real quickly and give Phil the communication he needs to make a decision.

"Every inch is being analyzed. That's just a neat, new responsibility that's been added to my position that you take with a lot of pride because you can kind of impact the game in the moment."

Myers, who runs a Twitter account called @LittleMotivator, also takes pride in the fact he wasn't allowed to play hockey, but he's risen to its top level.

"There's a lot of time that gets put into video, and it's very rewarding when a coach values that time and sees it and understands it," Myers said. "I've been around coaches my entire life. This is definitely the route I've always wanted to go, so I love that I'm in the conversations with our coaching staff developing game plans and strategizing. It's been awesome."

Inside the Sabres: It comes down to a matter of respect

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