On the hunt for hockey gold
The Peewee AA Subway Selects are into the provincial championship game.
Brandon MacDonald backstopping Scotians on a deep playoff run
MacDonald against the Antigonish Bulldogs.
TRENTON – It begins at the national anthem: Brandon MacDonald pounds his goal pad with his stick.
Three times, every time.
“To be honest, I don’t know how that started,” says the veteran goaltender for the Pictou County Junior Scotians, an Antigonish native who joined the Scotians in the fall of 2015.
“It must have worked one game, so I just stuck with it.”
It continues during stoppages in play when the faceoff is at the other end of the rink: MacDonald skates to the corner to his right, and taps the end of his stick on “the last three stanchions before the goal line,” he says. Next whistle, he heads to the left corner, brushing his glove against the three metal posts.
Actually, it starts even before O Canada is sung at Trenton rink. He juggles racquetballs in the hallway, and lines up his stick, gloves, helmet and water bottle on the left hand side of the Scotians dressing room door. “Every rink, I have a place for them,” he says.
When he was tending goal in Major Midget for Cape Breton West, MacDonald was playing against Halifax in his first game back from an injury.
“I was hungry, so I got a Mars bar,” he recalls. “I played really well, so that stuck, too.”
These days, MacDonald has a Mars bar and a bottle of Gatorade between periods – a Kit-Kat or any other kind of chocolate bar simply won’t do. Team manager Stacey Murphy is responsible for making sure he has his Mars bars, but what if she showed up one day and didn’t bring them with her?
“I would probably be a (expletive),” he said, “and get her to go to the nearest gas station for them.”
He’s laughing, but he’s serious.
“He’s a normal guy, otherwise,” Murphy says. “The quietest guy in the room on game nights.”
His paternal grandfather Billy died a few years ago and on a strip of white tape stuck to the piece of protective fibreglass on the back of his goalie mask, MacDonald has printed the words “RIP Grampie.” When he was a young boy, he spent a lot of time with his Grampie down in the Sherbrooke area, but after his family moved to Antigonish, he’d see less of him.
“And then it felt like 10 or 15 years went by. He was my first grandparent that passed away,” he recalls. The piece of tape, he says, “is something I could keep with me – a motivation.”
A PLAYOFF RUN
Coach Al Whidden called his goaltender “positionally sound, aggressive – he challenges the shooter and never gives up on a play.”
The Scotians have won four straight playoff games, with MacDonald allowing just four goals in that stretch as his team finished off the Antigonish Bulldogs, then surged to a 2-0 series lead against the favoured Glace Bay Miners.
“I have confidence that we can beat Glace Bay, for sure,” he said even before Game 1 last Saturday.
Goalies have a reputation – justified or not – for being a little off, a bit eccentric. Perhaps it’s the hard rubber pucks hurtling towards them at high speed, or being the last line of defence. Perhaps goalies are born that way and gravitate toward the net. Maybe it’s all of those things, or something else entirely.
“I always get that,” MacDonald says of the theory that goalies are different.
The other players on his team do not mess with his idiosyncrasies.
“They just leave me alone – they let me do my thing. ”
STRANGE WAYS, INDEED
Here are a few of the countless superstitions of famous athletes:
• During intermissions, Wayne Gretzky would drink a Diet Coke, an ice water, a Gatorade and a second Diet Coke before getting back onto the ice.
• Retired NFLer Brian Urlacher used to eat two chocolate chip cookies before every game.
• Former major league baseball pitch Turk Wendell chewed four pieces of black licorice while pitching. At the end of each inning, he'd spit them out, return to the dugout, and brush his teeth, but only after taking a flying leap over the baseline.
• Ex-NBAer Mike Bibby used to keep fingernail clippers on the bench and whenever Bibby went to the bench for timeouts, he’d trim his nails.
• Chicago Blackhawks hall-of-famer Stan Mikita smoked a cigarette between each period and would toss the butt over his left shoulder when finished.