Matt Tennyson’s latest stop in the Milwaukee area will be a limited engagement just like the first one. Probably not as long.
Ideally his next home would be in Nashville. If not there, then some other National Hockey League city.
And then, once the Milwaukee Admirals defenseman’s professional hockey playing days are over … well … who knows where he’ll end up.
“I just kind of roll with the punches and where I’m at,” said Tennyson, who lived in Hartland from the time he was in fourth grade through his freshman year at Arrowhead High School.
“I have a lake house in Michigan, I went to college at Western Michigan, and a lot of my closest buddies live in Michigan, so I spend a lot of time there in the summers. My girlfriend is from New York. My parents are in Cali.
“So I’m kind of a nomad at heart. That’s kind of the way I like it too. … Big cities, small cities, (smaller) towns, it’s all in my DNA.”
All things considered, Milwaukee suits Tennyson well at the moment.
At 31, he has played 501 professional games, including 166 in the NHL, but has never had a full season at the top. Tennyson knows he can contribute regularly on the big-league level in the right situation, but he also knows there are many worse places to be than here if he’s going to play in the minors.
“It’s no San Diego as far as the weather is concerned,” Tennyson said, “but to have a city that has other big teams – obviously the Bucks – it just helps that there’s a lot of people in the city, that there’s more to do. And we get some good support here for us as well.”
The idea that he joined the Admirals this season strikes Tennyson as a bit odd. Although he developed as a youth player in the Arrowhead system and played under former Admiral Carl Valimont, for the longest time he didn’t make the connection.
“There’s so many kids that play hockey it’s such a small amount of kids that go on to play professionally,” Tennyson said. “Just being in the area, I think I went to a few Admiral games as a kid and never thought twice; it didn’t even cross my mind at that point because I was so young.
“It was just strange to be back in a way but also exciting to be back. I have some friends that stayed and live in the area, now married with kids and all that stuff. It’s definitely different to be back, but in a good way.”
Born in Minneapolis, Tennyson lived in Michigan before coming to Wisconsin when his father, Tom, took a job at the Kohl’s headquarters in Menomonee Falls. Then Matt and his parents moved to California in 2005 and lived around both San Jose and Los Angeles, the markets that are home to the state’s three NHL teams.
It was there Tennyson got serious about a sport he previously had thought of as a game he had enjoyed playing alongside his buddies, the way they had competed in football and golf.
“Depending on where you play, obviously you’re exposed to different scouts and different people that are watching you, and I guess that was the first time I had some real exposure to the possibility of playing juniors or something like that,” Tennyson said.
He played two years of juniors and three at Western Michigan, went undrafted and has signed a series of free-agent contracts with his hometown San Jose Sharks, the Carolina Hurricane, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and, last July, the Nashville Predators.
Although Tennyson had lived in the Milwaukee area for six years, that was more than half his life ago. When he was assigned to the Admirals, he needed a map to get around town for a while.
“Well, Milwaukee has changed a lot, and the downtown area, especially,” Tennyson said. “I haven’t been back to the suburbs in a long time, but I’m due for a trip out to Hartland just to check out the old stomping grounds, walk around Arrowhead. Obviously with COVID it’s a little hard to arrange some of these things."
Tennyson joined the Predators on Thursday for his first NHL game of the season and had an assist in a 5-2 victory over Winnipeg. With the Admirals he has three goals, eight assists and 24 penalty minutes while playing in 30 of the Admirals’ 37 games.
“Up top they know what I have,” Tennyson said. “They know I’ve played a handful of NHL games, I have the experience. It’s kind of in their hands. I can only do as much as I can control, and that’s just playing consistent hockey.
“Maybe when I was a little bit younger that was something I thought about a little more, but as I’ve matured I kind of see both sides, how the business works, just the process of getting called up and playing and sticking. There’s a ton of factors that go into it and it’s not something that I concern myself with on a daily basis.”
He imagines his post-hockey days unfolding in a similar fashion.
“A lot of people are born and raised in the same city and all their family’s in one spot and then that’s just kind of what they’re comfortable with,” Tennyson said. “That’s not how my life has gone, and I’ve just kind of adjusted to that accordingly.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Hockey journey brings Admirals' Matt Tennyson back to Milwaukee