Wolves forward Stelio Mattheos’ NHL dream continues after cancer fight

WGN News Now

CHICAGO – When watching a game in the National Hockey League in November, it’s hard not to notice the campaign that’s going on off the ice.

“Hockey Fights Cancer” is a month-long initiative by the league to aid those who are dealing with cancer along with their families while also saluting those who’ve overcome the ailment in and outside of the sport.

When Stelio Mattheos sees that while watching games, it takes on a little extra meaning since 2019.

That’s when the Chicago Wolves forward and 2017 third round draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The forward has since beaten it and has been back on the ice at times over the course of the past three seasons, remembering how that ordeal shaped his career and his thinking moving forward.

“Don’t take the game for granted,” said Mattheos on how his perspective has changed since his cancer fight. “Obviously showed me how…I always knew, how important and how strong my family bonds are. My back was kinda against the wall, and the people I needed to count on were there for me: My teammates, my family, all my friends back home, my coaches, the organization.

“It felt good to have everyone behind me and now I just try and just enjoy every day and have fun playing.”

It was after his AHL team, the Charlotte Checkers, had defeated the Wolves in Calder Cup Finals and an ultrasound revealed the cause of pain which Mattheos had over the course of the playoffs.

“Just shock. I kinda blacked out a little bit,” said Mattheos of receiving the news.

There wasn’t much time to process it, as he underwent surgery to remove a testicle soon after the diagnosis then immediately began chemotherapy treatment. There would be three rounds of those after that, which put hockey on hold for Mattheos over that summer as he wondered what his future might be.

“It wasn’t easy. We had many, many talks, him and I, just about life in general, not even about hockey, we were trying to get him back as a person,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “The hardest victory he could get was beating cancer and he went through a lot of different things.”

But he’s kept his career going, returning to the Checkers in the fall of 2019, but was limited to 16 games due to a lower-body injury. When the Wolves switched affiliations and then shared Nashville Predators’ prospects in the 2020-2021 season, he played in six games in Chicago in the AHL and three in the ECHL.

Mattheos has been full time so far in the 2021-2022 season, playing in 17 games with a goal and assist in helping the Wolves to the lead in the Central Division.

“Just happy to be playing still and I’m gonna keep doing my best,” said Mattheos. “I’m not gonna stop now. I’ve gone through some bumps in the road and it just make me stronger. It took me a while to feel normal again, but I think I’m back.”

Larry Hawley had more on Mattheos on WGN News Now, which you can watch in the video above.

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