There is no hiding from hockey in Canada. No matter how small the town, toddlers don skates and slide pucks across frozen ponds in hopes of one day playing in arenas with seating capacities larger than their hometown’s population. Such is the case of Islanders defenseman and Judique, Nova Scotia native Andrew MacDonald
“It’s just a small fishing village with probably about 300-350 people,” said MacDonald. “There’s no bank, there’s no restaurant, no school or rink. We have a church, a convenient store, a community hall, a volunteer fire department, a gas station, and that’s about it.”
MacDonald played much of his youth hockey in Nova Scotia, competing with the best competition in the small province. As MacDonald grew, his passion for hockey followed. With few serious suitors from the Canadian Major Junior circuit, MacDonald set his sights on playing Division I hockey in the United States. A strong student, MacDonald was offered a scholarship to study and play hockey at Bemidji State University, a perennially powerful hockey school in northern Minnesota.
As a high school senior, MacDonald verbally committed to play at Bemidji State. Shortly thereafter, he was confronted with a daunting decision that would permanently affect his future in hockey. MacDonald received an offer from the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to play in the upcoming fall. However, the Wildcats’ season would overlap with his first semester at Bemidji State, and NCAA rules prohibit its players from signing contracts with Canadian Major Junior Teams due to the monetary compensation players receive.
“That decision was actually really tough,” said MacDonald. “If there was any chance that I thought I would go play in the Quebec league, I wouldn’t have committed (to Bemidji State). The fact was that I did, and then the (Wildcats) offer came after, and it’s just too big a thing to pass up.”
MacDonald signed with the Moncton Wildcats and forfeited his scholarship to Bemidji State. He proceeded to turn heads in his rookie season, amassing six goals and 40 assists for 46 points.
Despite the fact that MacDonald was not rated by the NHL’s central scouting service, the Islanders felt strongly enough about the young defender to select him in the sixth round of the 2006 draft. After a brief stay at Islanders’ training camp later in 2006, MacDonald was returned to Moncton, where he would finish his junior career. He showed dramatic improvement, totaling 14 goals and 44 assists for 58 points, and was named a First-Team All Star.
“I think I just had a lot of confidence,” said MacDonald of his improved play after attending Islanders Training Camp in 2006. “When you come down from an NHL camp, there are a lot of expectations from your junior club. That’s something that I really took pride in and tried to take advantage of.”
After his season in Moncton ended, the Islanders signed MacDonald to its AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers to play in the team’s final three games. MacDonald’s professional career has since accelerated in each season. In the three seasons since his debut with Bridgeport, MacDonald has played in the ECHL, AHL, and now has a home as a top-pair defenseman with power play duties in the NHL.
MacDonald points to former NHL All-Star defenseman, and fellow Nova Scotian Al MacInnis as a major influence in his career.
“It’s definitely nice to know, coming from a small town, that he came from one too and did as well as he did,” said MacDonald.
Considering the progression his career has made, there is no telling when MacDonald will hit his ceiling. Whether he’s playing for the 350 people in Judique, or the millions on Long Island, MacDonald will continue to strive to become a better player.