COLE HARBOUR - The cocktail of anxiety, anticipation and excitement had finally run its course. Now, Nathan MacKinnon could let the momentous occasion sink in.
© AP Photo/Nick Wass
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) celebrates his goal during the second period an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, in Washington.
The Cole Harbour native and 2013 No. 1 NHL draft pick had just picked up a pair of assists in his first regular season game with the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 2 – a home opening 6-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks in front of a sold out Pepsi Centre.
“I just remember the crowd roaring,” MacKinnon said by phone over the weekend. “I also remember the goose bumps I was feeling. It was a special moment. They seem to be adding up as I go along.”
Ten days later, the 18-year-old former Halifax Mooseheads star scored his first NHL goal – a laser snapshot that beat Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth blocker side.
“To score your first NHL goal was a dream of mine. It was a huge relief for me. Thankfully, it came when it did. I was wondering how long it would take. It was a great play by (Paul Stastny) to set me up like that. It’s definitely a memorable feeling.”
Then came the media frenzy centering on him and Cole Harbour’s other No.1 pick – Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby – facing off on Oct. 21. It ultimately didn’t measure up to the hype, both ended up pointless, in a 1-0 Avalanche victory.
“But, it was fun,” said MacKinnon. “I know Sidney as a buddy. It was very cool. But really I wasn’t stargazing. But, at the same time, I grew up cheering for Pittsburgh and to play in that rink was such a thrill for me.”
Playing in a city boasting four pro teams, MacKinnon isn’t exactly a household name quite yet. It’s a change from a city in which his former hockey home, the Metro Centre, bears a monstrous shot of him hoisting the Memorial Cup located beside its main entrance.
“It’s nothing like Halifax,” he said of the attention he gets. “I’m just the new kid on the block. I haven’t reached celebrity status yet.”
Since starting the season with seven points in six games MacKinnon has been held pointless in his last five. He admits that he’s still adjusting to the speed and intensity of the NHL game, but has no doubt he’ll emerge as a bonafide NHLer.
His progress comes as no surprise to his former bench boss, Mooseheads head coach Dominique Ducharme.
“It’s a man’s game and he’s adjusting to that, it’s a normal process,” said Ducharme.
“He’s always been good in big moments. Starting his career like this was a big moment, and he wanted to show he was ready to play in the NHL…. and he has.”
- by Andrew Rankin - Metro Halifax