“It was hard,” he admits. “It has been a big part of my life. I have been a workaholic at hockey – whether it has been on the ice or off the ice in the gym – since I was 12 or 13 years old. I was in my basement working out when I was 12 years old, and ever since then I have just had one thing in mind.
“Now I have recently gotten married, and we have bought a house. Hockey isn’t first on my priority list anymore, so that is a difficult adjustment. You sort of have a narcissistic personality about everything needing to be about ‘me and my hockey.’ And now letting go of that is tough and I think a lot of people have a hard time with that adjustment.”
MacLean is a smart enough and bright enough guy that he has been preparing for life after hockey even while he is still playing the game he loves.
“Right now I’m taking business courses trying to get my degree in business,” says MacLean. “I started when I was in junior but it’s been a long process sort of chipping away at a degree. I’d like to somehow combine my hockey experience with business. Maybe I can get on in management or be on the other side of the ice from playing, maybe get into coaching or something like that. That would be my No. 1 option because I can use the experience I’ve gotten from hockey off the ice.
“Up until now, most of my summers have been taken up by working out and training for the upcoming season. But now that I am getting older, I just don’t train as much because I am a bit older and I also need to start thinking about my future and start working on my courses and things like that to get ready for the next step.”
It’s guys like MacLean that keep Rand McNally in business. Jacksonville, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Trenton, Kalamazoo, Lowell, Philadelphia, Grand Rapids, Providence, Hartford, Hershey, Bridgeport, Reading, Charleston. More miles than smiles; more pucks than bucks. It’s no life for a family, and MacLean was smart enough to realize that, too.
“You can do it, but what price are you paying really?” he asks. “And I really appreciate my wife for that fact. We met early in my career but we did the long-distance thing and got our own lives in line. That’s what I needed to do at the time. I needed to take every shot I could get and go to every team I could go to and get called up wherever I could. That allowed me to do that so now I have no regrets at all. I exhausted every avenue. Now I can be with her in Charleston and be totally happy with what I did in the past. Now my priorities are changing and life goes on.”
The more you listen to him, and the more you listen to others talk about him, the easier it is to see how and why MacLean is such a good leader.
“I think the first and foremost thing about Cail MacLean is his character,” says former Stingrays coach Jason Fitzsimmons. “I think it starts with his upbringing, and I’ve never met his parents. But this guy is just the class act of all class acts. The way he carries himself, the way he conducts himself in the locker room, on and off the ice. He’s a guy that other guys look up to.”
Last March, the Stingrays were battling for a spot in the playoffs. MacLean was bothered by a back ailment that had him in and out of the lineup, but his value to the team is so great that when he was not able to suit up, he was still behind the bench in a suit serving as an additional assistant coach.
Fitzsimmons is right about one thing, and that’s MacLean’s upbringing. The right wing’s father helped point him to a very good role model many years ago.
“My favorite team was the Toronto Maple Leafs,” says MacLean. “I grew up in Atlantic Canada [Nova Scotia], so you had a choice. It was either Montreal or Toronto. I liked the Leafs but my favorite player was always Steve Yzerman. I just really admired him. My father opened my eyes to him one day. I remember Steve Yzerman was on TV and my father said, ‘Sit down and watch this because not only is this guy good, but he’s classy.’ Ever since then I have kept track of him and he has never disappointed in that respect. He has always been a stand-up guy and a great hockey player.”
MacLean may have never followed in Yzerman’s footsteps as a “great” hockey player, but virtually everyone who knows him would use the terms “classy” and “stand-up guy” to describe him.
“He is an unbelievable guy,” says Bradley. “He is one of those guys who is just a super nice guy and who is liked by everyone. He was a great leader on our team in junior and I learned a lot from him. I was a rookie and I think he was over-aged, which meant he was 20 years old. He’s a great penalty killer and a great shot blocker, probably the best shot blocker I’ve ever seen. He always seemed to be able to get in the way of pucks, especially coming from the point. He works really hard and he is a great team guy. He’d do anything for any guy on the team and he’s just a super all-around guy.”
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