Palm trees and sunny skies were the norm for Matt Caito growing up in Southern California, but so too were his dreams of becoming a professional hockey player.
“When you think of California, you definitely don’t think of hockey. You think of the beaches and the warm weather,” says Caito. “My friends were playing baseball, football and basketball. The closest rink was about 30 miniutes away. My mom is from Maine and my dad is from the Boston area, so they grew up with hockey and got me hooked on it as well.”
Caito was born in 1993 in Coto de Caza, California, at a time when Wayne Gretzky had been traded to the LA Kings, and hockey was taking off in “non-traditional” hockey markets such as SoCal.
One of Caito’s favorite players growing up was Paul Kariya, who was the first superstar for the then Anaheim Mighty Ducks. “I still remember being at the playoff game when he got hit by Scott Stevens and came back to score a goal. I’ve always been a fan of him because of his work ethic and attention to detail. I still have a Paul Kariya jersey hanging up in my room, always will.”
Caito says he’s not surprised to see so many pro players coming out of the new hockey hot spots. “Now, guys are coming out of places like California and Arizona. It’s great hockey out there now.”
Caito is playing his first full year as a pro, currently on loan to the Walleye from Grand Rapids. Last season he finished his college career at Miami University and played 8 regular season games with the Walleye (2 goals, 3 assists), as well as 6 playoff games vs. Reading (1 goal, 1 assist).