The Brock, Saskatchewan native’s hockey career has taken him everywhere from Providence, R.I., to Charlotte, N.C., to St. Jean, Que.
His extensive tour of duty spans just about every rung of the minor league ladder, from the American Hockey League to the roller derby on skates known as the Quebec Senior Professional Hockey League and everything in between. He has never stuck with one team for more than 62 games at a time.
These days, MacIntyre fights the likes of Derek Boogaard and Eric Godard for a living as the designated enforcer of the Edmonton Oilers. He’s finally reached the National Hockey League at the age of 28, but MacIntyre knows his dream could be over at any time. Enforcers are becoming less and less common in today’s game and the six-foot-six, 265-pound pugilist appeared in just 22 games during his first NHL season, partially due to a broken orbital bone. “I think that made me realize, ‘Hey, you could lose this opportunity in the blink of an eye and you have to appreciate it and work hard,’” says MacIntyre, who is back in Brock after his Oilers missed the playoffs for the third straight season.
“You work hard getting to where you’re at, but you also have to work hard to maintain where you are. I think that’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned throughout this year. People don’t just give you things. You have to earn them.”
MacIntyre certainly has earned the promotion to the big league. He’s dealt with scoffers since he left the Prince Albert Raiders and turned pro in 2000, and for the present, he’s come out on top.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been told I was too big, too slow, and not talented enough,” he stated. “I was constantly told I would never make it farther than where I was, no matter what league or what level I was at. I was never a top prospect or the most talented, but my mom and dad taught me never to quit. They instilled in me a work ethic.”
Two years ago, MacIntyre couldn’t have imagined getting to this point. Having spent the past six seasons with seven different teams in six different leagues, he decided to pick up his gloves and say goodbye to professional hockey.
“I was playing in the (United Hockey League), right back where I started my career, with the Quad City Mallards. I was just fed up with the game, fed up with the politics, and I was fighting day in and day out and had enough,” MacIntyre recalled.
“I called it quits. My family was back home in Charlotte and it just wasn’t worth it for me, being away from them. I thought it was the best thing for me, to move on with life and get on with the real world.”
After several months of reflection and family time, the defenceman-turned-winger allowed his curiosity to get the better of him. He returned to the game in the fall of 2007 and was offered a tryout with the Providence Bruins of the AHL. After a 62-game stint there, the Florida Panthers inked him to a two-year contract in the summer of 2008. But when they sent him to the AHL after training camp, the Oilers claimed him off waivers.
For someone who had spent his entire pro career bouncing from town to town south of the border, the opportunity to play six hours from home was pretty heady stuff.
“I was pretty excited. I grew up watching the Oilers and it’s a dream come true even getting the chance. It’s an unbelievable feeling and whether I made the team or they sent me back on waivers, it was an opportunity for me to put that jersey on and to be a part of the Oilers organization,” said MacIntyre.
“I think they felt like they needed a physical guy like myself to watch over the smaller guys on their team. We have a smaller team than most of the teams in the NHL, so they wanted a bit of grit,” he added.
Big Mac, as he has become known among Edmonton fans and media, fought six times during his 22 games with the Oilers, winning four. And among his many appearances on the scoresheet, two of them weren’t for penalties.
His first NHL goal came against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 13 when he opened the scoring in a 5-2 win. But scoring was the furthest thing from MacIntyre’s mind that night.
“I was a little bit nervous playing Washington. They had Donald Brashear there and you grow up watching the game and seeing him do as well as he did as far as my job goes. I was more worried about that,” he laughed.
“I was yelling for (a pass). I was the last guy that was covering defence. That was my old position. I was just covering for a guy and I happened to be in the right spot at the right time. I was just trying to get a shot on net and it might have had eyes, I guess. It was pretty cool, that’s for sure.”
Three months later, with the eliminated Oilers looking to play spoiler against the Calgary Flames on the second last night of the regular season, MacIntyre found the net again and this time it stood up as the game-winner in a 5-1 drubbing.
To put his two NHL goals in perspective, that’s one more than he scored in a full season in the AHL, ECHL and WHA2 in 2003-04.
MacIntyre admitted it isn’t easy to sit in the press box as often as he does, but he’ll take it over long minor league bus rides.
“That’s part of being a professional. You have to adapt to the circumstances. It’s tough being a role player. The game’s changed. Yeah, you want to be out there, but the game has changed and the coach puts you in where he feels you fit,” he commented.
“I’m playing in the NHL. Yeah, I might not get the most ice time, or the most games played, but you’re part of a team and your main focus is winning the Stanley Cup and if I can be part of it, that’s a success for me.”
MacIntyre’s ability to play the wing and defence could very well prolong his NHL career.
“It’s maybe my ace in the hole as far as furthering my career, that I can play a little bit of both. I don’t really care where I’m playing as long as I’m doing something,” he laughed. “That’s the way I look at it. You’re getting to play a sport and have fun at it and you get paid pretty well to do it, so wherever they want me, that’s what I’m going to do.”
With NHL teams placing more and more emphasis on speed and skill and some no longer carrying designated fighters, the future is uncertain for MacIntyre, but he intends to do everything he can to make sure his stint in the big league is more than just a cup of coffee.
“You can’t look too far ahead. You have to live every day and do the best you can. You have to work the hardest. You have to be one of the guys who’s willing to go the extra mile. You have to be that teammate,” he said.
“I think in order for me to stay in the NHL, I have to perfect the little things and that’s what I’m trying to do.”