“Somewhere beyond the athlete you’ve become…is the little boy who once picked up a stick and never looked back.” That was my brothers status at 9:30pm last night. His team lost in the NHIAA Div 1 hockey tournament at approximately 6 p.m. All of that time in between was just memories, no words of a hockey career that has currently come to a pause.
Mackenzie‘s last game, was certainly his best. The raw emotion he showed and the passion that was in every shift, I have never seen from that man before. Central went to the locker room after the first intermission being down 2-0 to Exeter. The second period consisted of a snipe from Sprague (Central), a missed penalty shot from Nallan (Central), and immediately after a momentum changer from Exeter that resulted in a goal. Its 3-1 going into the third, and that is when the beast within Mackenzie came out. Knowing this could be it, he turned into the Hulk. Through his ability and talent he could and would skate end to end with the puck needing three guys to have the play be broken up. He went end to end 3 times from my memory weaving in and out and just dangling it through Exeter’s legs causing them to play cheap and hack him down. The refs though made no call on all 3 of those attempts. You could see Mac become frustrated, but you could also see his passion, he was bleeding green. His frustration for the no calls lead to him (5’7) absolutely laying out any kid in his path. One no call lead to him hammering a kid into the boards and following up with an emotional couple of shots to the opponents head. The ref sent him to the box, but after the pleaing by his coach stating that he was a senior and giving him 10 mins would end his season, the ref for a moment had a heart and gave him 4. Once his four minutes were up he won the next face off started a give and go to his winger and took off weaving in and it, once again getting slashed and going to the ice, the ref makes a call. With less than 5 minutes to go in the third Central is now on the power play. With a win of the face off and some cycling down low, the puck finally makes it to the point. Mac circles around the net making room for himself and calls for the one timer back door. He gets his wish and answers the call, the game is now 4-2 Exeter. Just 42 seconds later Central answers again to make it 4-3, we have a ball game. Unfortunately though Exeter holds off Central to defeat them, taking on #1 Trinity next week.
I tried to be the stronger person, I told myself I wasn’t going to cry. But when waiting by the locker room to give Mac a hug with my Dad as soon as he got off the ice, and seeing my Dad shed his first tear, I lost it. My father is the strongest person I have ever met. He never sheds any sort of emotion, he’s taught me to be strong and strong I have become. Through a couple of texts sent between brother’s after wards in the car. That was all the talking that was being done between us, as I return back to UNH all teary eyed.
Mackenzie has had a tremendous career. I believe he’s had a perfect ‘hometown hockey career.’ He learnt to skate in Manchester, picked up his first stick in Manchester, played all of his travel hockey for Manchester, and played all four years for his high school team in Manchester. He excelled in every season as well. My father taught us that hockey is a big part of our life, but not what life is all about that there is more to it. During the spring we played baseball, in the fall we played soccer, during the summer we took vacations. Hockey is the most difficult sport to make it to the next level after high school. It is a gamble and you have to dedicate yourself entirely to the sport and miss out on a lot of opportunities that only come once. That is why Mackenzie never played on 5 different ‘show case’ teams. Mackenzie chose to go to his junior semi, play his senior year for his high school team and attend a prominent college next year to write the next chapter in his life.
I lived my hockey career through him, that is maybe why I was so emotional. I had myself convinced that if dwarfism didn’t stop me from giving up playing competitively I would’ve been just as good as Mackenzie because of my passion. We would fire shots in our garage everyday together, skate on our back yard pond, and even played on our first team together under our local recreation league in Manchester. Whether we were in Canada or Rhode Island for another one of his hockey tournaments, I was always there. From his first hockey tryout for Central to being a member on the ‘diaper line,’ I was always there. I am his biggest fan, he is my biggest role model. Hockey just isn’t a thing for my family, it is a way of life. I love you Mackenzie, so proud of you.
I share you this story not to be cocky. If you think I am than don’t read this blog. I’ve just never been so proud before. I share you this story because of the love and raw emotion behind it. Two brother’s sharing a passion that one full-filled while the other had to watch. A story that begins with a once upon a time, but will never have an end. Because i know that we are not done yet. Mackenzie will play another day. Whether it’s for a club team at UNH or UMASS next year, or an adult league when he gets older. Or like me, Mackenzie will find other ways to stay involved in the game that has given so much to us. I believe that no matter what when my brother and I grow old we will always have hockey to bring us back closer, no matter where our lives take us. Like our dad, we just want to see our son’s one day pick up a stick for the very first time, and never look back.