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FORD MAKES THE MOST OF HIS TIME IN OKLAHOMA CITY
By Carter Baum,
Matt Ford has played for six different AHL franchises over his six seasons as a professional, but the 29-year-old winger hopes to have found a home in Oklahoma City.
"They treat us like it's a family here, to my wife, Cassie, and I," Ford said. "The organization, the fans and the community - we really felt like we were at home."
Ford signed an AHL contract with Oklahoma City on July 13 and embraced the community right away, especially the team's young fans.
After each home game, Ford would stay late, and give a tour of the locker room to the game's Barons Kid - a child with a severe illness or affliction recognized at each home game - and his or her family.
Ford also became close with his Barons Buddies partner, Isaiah.
"I got to know him and his family really well and we had some fun away from the rink as well, not just (at) the Barons Buddies parties and the games," Ford said. "We did some dinners together and they're some very good people."
On the ice, Ford was looked on as an experienced voice in the locker room to help guide a team full of first- and second-year players. Even in his first season with the organization, he was named one of the four alternating assistant captains.
The West Hills, Calif. native led the Barons in goals, with 25, and put up a career-high number in points, 47, finishing fourth on the team in scoring. Ford was also a major contributor to the Barons' power play success, scoring a team-high 12 goals on the man-advantage.
On a team that saw 152 player transactions during the regular season, Ford was one of a handful of mainstays, playing in 73 games during the regular season, more than any other player to wear a Barons jersey this year.
"It was really gratifying," Ford said. "Look at where we started at the beginning of the year, to where we ended, as a group I thought we really grew. We came a long ways and making the playoffs was a huge part of it."
A crucial part of the run to make the playoffs, registering 26 points in his last 31 games, Ford suffered an injury late in the season, preventing him from playing during the postseason.
"It was disappointing being injured and not being able to play at the end," Ford said. "It's just an upper body (injury), and I'm going to have surgery here and get it taken care of and get myself healthy and prepared for next season."
Ford is not under contract with the Barons for next year, but after his time spent in OKC this season, he would like to return, if the option is there.
"It's really early here, but I love playing here in Oklahoma City, and if the opportunity comes up I'd love to be back."
UPDATE: Ford tweeted on May 5th that his off-season surgery was a success.
Surgery went great. Had a dream they cut my hair while I was under, thankfully my beautiful locks are still there. pic.twitter.com/KF6JlxcEXd— Matthew Ford (@Frdy11) May 5, 2014
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