BEMIDJI -- Matt Read still plays "Big Buck Hunter" in his spare time.
Read's former Bemidji State teammates gleaned this information from the HBO television series "Flyers/Rangers 24/7," which was broadcast in the month leading up to this season's NHL Winter Classic.
The game is a favorite among the Beaver hockey players, so when they saw the Philadelphia Flyers rookie playing the hunting video game on the show with his Philly teammates, his BSU mates found it a nice touch.
"I think we were all hoping to see him a little more on 24/7," BSU forward Drew Fisher said. "But it's interesting to see the life of some of those guys, see who he hangs out with in his spare time."
Not that the Beavers haven't kept in touch with their buddy on the Flyers. But they appreciated the fact that he's the same guy he always was.
"Sometimes guys sign an NHL deal and it's pretty easy to just say, you're in the show, and forget where you came from," sophomore Brance Orban said. "But that's not him. He's got his head on right."
The Beavers have responded accordingly, sending him texts and buying Flyers gear with his name emblazoned on the back.
"A few of the guys have the shirt-seys," Fisher said, referring to the t-shirts with a player name on the back.
The Flyers logo has also become a conspicuous sight around campus.
"You'll see them during some of our games now, too, the Flyers stuff," forward David Boehm said. "I'm pretty sure they're selling them in the gift shop. I've seen people wearing Flyers jerseys or Read shirt-seys to class."
Most of the Beavers said Read isn't the only guy they know playing pro hockey, but he's a special case.
"For him to be so close to us, it's a little weird," Boehm said. "Especially knowing how much he is playing and contributing to the team."
Beavers enjoy watching
With the school year winding down and the NHL playoffs gearing up, the Beavers have become even more invested in how Read and the Flyers fare.
It's something they couldn't do much during their own season. But now they can watch, with a more (or less) critical eye.
"You watch it a little more closely when he's on the ice," Boehm said.
"Although we may not be as critical of him as we are of the other players," he added with a laugh.
Luckily, they haven't needed to critique his play much this season. Read led all rookies in goals scored with 24 and was third in rookie points (47).
"He's one of the better players on that team," BSU captain Ben Kinne said. "It's a huge thing for a rookie.
"He's one of their key players when it comes to being a complete role player," Boehm added. "He's skilled, he's gritty, he can play power play and he's playing the point on the power play. With a team as skilled as Philly, you don't really see that unless it's a (Claude) Giroux-type player."
Read scored two big goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, then scored the Flyers' lone goal in their 4-1 second-round loss to the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night.
Kinne said it was hard watching the Flyers play so poorly in Game 2, but he didn't think too much of it.
"It's kinda disappointing to watch (when they lose) because you want his team to win, but that's the way hockey goes," he said. "It's all about momentum."
If the Flyers can beat the Devils, they still have a few more roadblocks before they can hoist the Stanley Cup, including a potential matchup with the top-seeded Rangers.
"It'll be a tough matchup for them, if they both win," Kinne said. "I think the Flyers still have a shot, though."
While the Beavers want to see their former teammate win the trophy -- and maybe bring it back to Bemidji for a day -- the most important thing, for them, is putting BSU on the map.
"It helps our team and our school, too," Boehm said. "Kids see that we move players on to the NHL. You see that with North Dakota and Minnesota all the time but now that BSU is doing it, hopefully it helps our fanbase and kids that we recruit."