Although he’s only 24-years-old, the Islanders
The Judique, Nova Scotia native made his way to Long Island this week to not only experience the joy of a heat wave, but to interact with fans and sign hundreds of autographs as well.
MacDonald knows how important it is for aspiring hockey players to have role models and thus started his week with a trip to Islanders Iceworks in Syosset. He assisted an on-ice practice with more than 25 youth hockey participants.
“I think everyone remembers as a kid when they went to these kinds of camps and skating schools,” he said. “For these kids to be able to be out there and pick up some tips from some NHL players, I know from experience it’s pretty special. Hopefully they can take a few things with them.”
The youth hockey players ranged in size, skill and age, but they all learned a few things about how to become a better hockey player Tuesday afternoon. The practice was run by Iceworks coaches Mike Lang and Vinny Messina while MacDonald skated around providing tips and insights wherever he saw fit.
There were plenty of skating and stick handling drills that focused on hockey’s basic fundamentals to begin the practice. As the skaters loosened up, the drills became more in-depth. MacDonald, recovering from hip surgery, did not hesitate to participate in a few of them.
“The coaches just asked me to give little pointers to the kids whenever I could,” MacDonald said. “The kids looked like they were having fun so it was easy to talk to them. They were very responsive and they listened well so we all had a good time.”
Islanders fans can remember back to late March when MacDonald suffered a torn labrum in his hip forcing him to miss the remaining seven games of the season. Fittingly, Tuesday was MacDonald’s first time on the ice since then, so just like the youth hockey players, MacDonald was focused on fundamentals.
“I was going to start skating last week, but I couldn’t get around to it,” he said. “I heard I was going to be doing some work on the ice, so I was pretty excited about it. I was anxious to see how the hip felt and it felt really good, so no worries there.”
That’s a good sign for Islanders fans as MacDonald developed into one of the team’s top defenseman last season and tallied a career high in points (4 goals, 23 assists). MacDonald’s on-ice success certainly hasn’t interfered with his desire to give back to the community.
Later that night, MacDonald made an appearance at the Islanders Team Store in the Sunrise Mall. More than 150 fans lined up to get all sorts of memorabilia signed by the young defenseman.
It’s great to be able to meet the fans who come out to the rink every night and are cheering you on. I’ve heard nothing but encouraging things from them at these events, which is really important. We haven’t had a great record the last few seasons, so for them to show their loyalty and keep coming out really means a lot to the players. - Andrew MacDonald
MacDonald was pleasantly surprised to see the large number of fans who took time out of their day just to meet him.
“I can’t say I ever thought I would experience anything like this,” MacDonald said of the signing. “It’s something very special and you get an appreciation for being able to play at this level.”
MacDonald’s new player t-shirt release coincided with the signing, so there were a number of people sporting their MacDonald memorabilia. Fans had plenty of uplifting things to say to MacDonald, which he said means a lot.
“It’s great to be able to meet the fans who come out to the rink every night and are cheering you on,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but encouraging things from them at these events, which is really important. We haven’t had a great record the last few seasons, so for them to show their loyalty and keep coming out really means a lot to the players.”
|Andrew MacDonald signs autographs and poses for photos with fans at Driftwood Day Camp on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. |
On Wednesday, MacDonald made his way to Driftwood Day Camp in Melville. Once there, he took pictures and signed autographs for the 800 campers. MacDonald didn’t take a single break in his two hours there, as he was constantly signing autographs for the massive line of campers.
“My hand is probably going to cramp up later,” MacDonald said with a laugh. “I had a workout this morning so my arms are dead to begin with, but I made it through (the signing). The kids were all really good and very polite so I enjoyed the experience.”
There were plenty of campers donning their Isles gear, which MacDonald said was nice to see from kids at such a young age.
“The kids in Islanders jerseys were really cool to see,” he said. “It’s pretty nice to see there’s lots of support in the community and I’m looking forward to playing for them this year.”
MacDonald concluded his week on Long Island on Thursday with a trip to the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point with teammate Ty Wishart
. The two received a tour of the Academy’s boats and were even given a chance to drive them. After the tour, MacDonald and Wishart ate lunch on the campus, but not before a “Let’s go Islanders” chant was delivered by some of the freshmen class as they marched into the cafeteria.
MacDonald enjoyed his time in the Long Island community this week and looks forward to interacting with fans, young and old, as much as possible. When he was growing up he loved meeting NHL players, so he knows how special these experiences can be for kids today.
“Whenever I got a signature from an NHL player I was awfully excited about it,” MacDonald said. “To see how excited some of the kids got is always nice to see. I’d be more than happy to come out in the community again.”