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Matt Gilbertson

ice hockey player

According to Matt Gilbertson, it was fate. In 1990, the Minnesota native and longtime hockey player had just relocated to Hawaii and was checking into the Atkinson YMCA. In an adjacent space in the parking lot was a van from the island’s only ice rink, the Ice Palace.

“I had been in Hawaii only a day and I already knew where I could play hockey,” says Gilbertson, an architect at Architects Hawaii, who has played the sport in high school, college and even professionally in Europe. “I got settled in and eventually sent for my equipment from home.”

Once or twice a week, Gilbertson can be found at the Halawa rink, usually late (games don’t start until 9 p.m.). While the competition isn’t as keen as his old playing days, Gilbertson says that Honolulu has its fair share of good players, even a few NHL veterans.

“About half the league consists of people who have played on the Mainland on some level,” says Gilbertson. “And our league has also developed some good local talent in recent years. Strong showings at several Mainland tournaments have proved that we are just as competitive as more traditional hockey communities.”

But winning isn’t very high on Gilbertson’s list of hockey priorities anymore. For him, the hard-hitting game has a surprising gentle side: connecting with friends and reconnecting with himself.

“Being on the ice is almost a meditative thing after a while,” says Gilbertson. “It’s like being in the tube in surfing. It puts me in touch with the core of who I am.”

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Hawaii Business,December