Around 11 p.m. last night, Kyle Hanlin and I met up at a local establishment. We had received the shocking news of the passing of Donnie MacMillan just a few hours earlier, and were shifting out of PR-guy mode and into human-being mode.
We ordered up a couple of Donnie Mac’s favorite beverages, sat down in front of a television with his favorite sport on, and started sharing stories. It wasn’t difficult to remember plenty of them. I’m pretty sure you could put 10 RBC Center/Hurricanes employees in a room, and we could collectively tell story after story about Donnie Mac for days.
That’s just how Donnie Mac was, and how he will live on for all of us on Edwards Mill Road. Big and gregarious, Donnie Mac enjoyed life to its fullest and capitalized on every single day as much as anyone. As Kyle said, “Donnie Mac never had a bad day.” He was always busy, always doing something and always happy doing it. You’d see him on his lawn mower, cutting the grass around the RBC Center’s grounds at the crack of dawn, or on his Olympia, cleaning the ice late at night. Always looking perfectly content, as if there was literally no place he would rather be in the world. And there probably wasn’t.
From my professional perspective, Donnie Mac’s unique lifestyle and huge personality made him a featured attraction for media visiting Raleigh. Thinking about it today, it was probably a failing on my part that he never got his own reality show. I’d get funny questions like “Does the Zam driver live in that trailer back there?” or “Whose black cats are those roaming behind the arena” and serious ones like “How exactly do you keep the ice when it’s 90 degrees here in June?” From Sports Illustrated (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1025218/index.htm) to TSN and beyond, media loved Donnie Mac, and he was part of the landscape that made the Hurricanes and the RBC Center special. He truly enjoyed talking to anyone about his job.
As incomparable and fun-loving as he could be, Donnie Mac was very serious about his job. He embraced the challenges of making great ice in a Southern climate, and worked his tail off at all hours of the day to that end. And his job went far beyond just ice. You would come across him in the bowels of the arena or out about the grounds, always busy on one project or the other. It’s almost hard to fathom how he can possibly be replaced, but I can’t imagine one person can do the job.
For now, we tell stories, shed a few tears and share some laughs. And we raise our blue motorcycles to the Ice Man, and loving every moment life gives us.