Wild star Matt Dumba continues to grow game with annual Hockey Without Limits Camp

Matt Dumba first thought of the idea a few years ago while skating on the gigantic ice sheet at the Guidant John Rose Minnesota Oval in Roseville. He was there with Wild teammates Jonas Brodin, Joel Eriksson Ek and Victor Rask. They all brought their families around Christmas and had a great time.

“That’s when the idea first came to me of hosting a camp here,” Dumba said. “It’s worked out great.”

That’s an understatement. More than 300 kids from every walk of life imaginable descended upon the gigantic ice sheet on Monday for the third annual Hockey Without Limits Camp. The camp was created by Dumba to bring more diversity and inclusion to the sport, and it’s done exactly that.

The organizations represented included The Herb Brooks Foundation; New Directions Youth Ministry; Hockey Is For Me; Mosaic Hockey Collective; DinoMights; Athletes Committed to Educating Students (ACES); Minnesota Special Hockey; Sled Hockey; Blind Hockey; Deaf/Hard of Hearing Hockey; and Interfaith Action and American Indian Youth Enrichment.

“We don’t leave anyone out,” Dumba said. “This really is hockey being for everyone. I think that phrase gets thrown out there a lot and doesn’t always get put into use. You’re seeing the definition of it right here. I’m pretty proud about that.”

Since taking a stand in the NHL bubble back in 2020 by taking a knee during the national anthem, Dumba has made it his mission to make the sport more accessible to kids. That’s why the amount of diversity in attendance on Monday brought such a big smile to his face.

“You don’t see that in hockey all the time,” Dumba said. “I think that makes it even more special.”

As someone that looked different than most of his peers on the ice growing up, Dumba understands how impactful it can be for a kid to see someone that looks like them. He remembers gravitating toward the likes of Jarome Iginla and Paul Kariya as a kid. It wasn’t until he was older that Dumba started to realize that he looked up to them because they looked like him.

“I started doing this stuff and trying to give back myself I realized, ‘Oh there must be some kind of connection there,’ ” Dumba said. “That’s why I believe representation matters.”

The fact the camp is on an outdoor rink is a big thing for Dumba. He still counts those moments as some of his best memories from childhood. He’s thrilled to share that experience on such a big stage now that he has the platform to do so.

“We’ve had some kids make a couple scenes not wanting to leave when their parents try to get them off the ice,” Dumba said with a laugh. “I don’t blame them. I was right there when I was little too. Just always asking for five or 10 more minutes from mom.”

This was actually the first time Dumba has gotten to skate with the kids at the camp.

He couldn’t attend the inaugural camp because of COVID, and he was injured last year so he couldn’t fully participate.

That wasn’t the case this year as Dumba buzzed around the gigantic ice sheet with teammates like Ryan Reaves, Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Boldy, Brandon Duhaime, Connor Dewar, Mason Shaw, Jon Merrill and Calen Addison also in attendance.

Asked if he ever thought the camp would grow to be this big when he first thought of the idea a few years ago, Dumba shook his head.

“No,” Dumba said while looking around at the kids skating behind him. “I never thought it was going to be anything like this.”

The fact that it is isn’t lost on him.