Putting kilometres on the road less travelled
From pond hockey to chopping wood to four-hour round trips, Dylan MacDonald has taken a rather unconventional route to the TELUS Cup
Katie Brickman
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April 27, 2017
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Dylan MacDonald is a humble 18-year-old that just wants to play hockey. The road to get there hasn’t been easy, though.

The Jordanville, N.S., native is a second-year defenceman with the Cape Breton West Islanders, the Atlantic Region champions, but had to make a jump in skill level and commit to a long commute to make the roster.

Prior to cracking the Islanders’ roster 2015, MacDonald was playing Midget B – “pond hockey,” as he puts it – in Sherbrooke, N.S., the closest community to Jordanville, with the St. Mary’s Coyotes.

“I’ve played hockey my whole life and I learned to skate when my father used to build outdoor rinks in the backyard,” said MacDonald. “As I got older, I played in Sherbrooke, but there weren’t going to be enough players for the team in Midget B and now the team no longer exists.”

Like many young hockey players in rural areas across Canada, MacDonald was forced to look elsewhere to play. He made the decision to jump from Midget B to Minor Midget and make the trip north to Cape Breton to try out for the Islanders.

“Dylan was an unknown that arrived at our spring identification camp in May 2015. He was just a raw kid, but as each practice and workout went, he showed great potential,” said Brian MacInnis, president of the Islanders. “His compete level was very high and his decision making was very good. He showed that he had the solid makings of a good defensive-style defenceman.”

MacDonald did what he could to impress the coaching staff and made the team out of camp. His journey to play high-calibre hockey began with a one hour, 40 minute commute one way, a drive he continues to make.

“I am pretty driven and dedicated, so the travel isn’t a big deal. I also have teammates that commute, so we take turns carpooling,” said MacDonald. “I didn’t get to play as much as I would have liked in Sherbrooke, so I did what I had to do to play at a high level.”

There was never a thought for the MacDonald family to move closer to Cape Breton or for Dylan to billet there during the season. “It is a long drive, but my I don’t mind and neither do my parents,” said MacDonald. “They enjoy coming to games and being there for me.”

MacDonald knows that without the support of his parents, Julie and George MacDonald, he wouldn’t be able to have this opportunity. “They’ve played a big role in my development and the ability to play. If it wasn’t for them helping out with costs and travel, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” explained MacDonald. “Last year, I didn’t have my licence, so they drove me there and back for each practice and game. They never complained.”

MacDonald also does what he can to help cover the costs of playing by chopping wood and mowing lawns. Despite the untraditional job, MacDonald has been a helping with the family business since he was 12 years old.

“A lot of people here burn firewood … it is their source of heat in the wintertime,” he said. “It is a pretty demanding resource and since my dad sells firewood, that’s how I got involved.”

As expected, chopping wood also got MacDonald into great shape and prepared him for the season. “It definitely builds strength and endurance,” he said.

On the ice, as MacDonald got more confident in his abilities and understanding of systems and positioning, the Islanders used him in more situations, including penalty kills and against top opponents.

“He has a great attitude, a great team player and a quiet kid that just goes out and plays the game the right way,” said MacInnis. “You would never know his background playing Midget B. He fits in and competes hard every night in the corners and in front of the net. He does his job in an efficient manner. We are very impressed with Dylan.”

Even with the juggling of long commutes to and from practice and working in the family business, MacDonald excels at school, maintaining an average in the high-90s in his Grade 12 year. He plans on becoming a surveyor after graduating this summer.

“I pride myself on my academics … school comes easy for me,” he said. “I just try and do my best every day at school, hockey and in my community.”

Jordanville is certainly behind him as well, as the village held a potluck fundraiser in early April that raised over $3,000 to help his parents get to Prince George, B.C., for the TELUS Cup. “They are hard-working folks and want to do the best by their kid and they are making it possible for him,” said MacInnis.

For more information:

Lisa Dornan
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4557 / 403-510-7046 (mobile)
ldornan@hockeycanada.ca

 

Morgan Bell
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6427
mbell@hockeycanada.ca

 

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

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