Oct. 30th, 2013
TORONTO– Drew MacIntyre is like any other goaltender when it comes to the design of his mask, except for one major requirement.
His cage cannot be the “cat-eye” design that is most popular amongst professional goaltenders in North America. And it’s been that way ever since he played junior in the QMJHL.
“I didn’t trust them and I still don’t,” said MacIntyre.
The 31-year-old has had his fair share of setbacks during his playing career. In 2003, his rookie season in the ECHL, he had two sports hernias that cut his playing time short. And in 2012 he broke his ankle, which led to him being cut from his club in the KHL. But in 1999 while playing for the Sherbrooke Castors he experienced his worst injury of all when a puck found its way through the cage on his mask.
“If it was millimetres higher I’d have lost my eye,” said MacIntyre.
At the time, MacIntyre was 17-years-old and in his second season with the Castors. His club was in Baie-Comeau to take on the Drakkar and during morning skate a slap shot from the hash marks by one of his teammates hit him square in the face, despite wearing a legal mask made by Itech. The puck actually got stuck in the cage but the impact of the shot left MacIntyre, who dropped into the butterfly to make the save, with a quadruple fracture in his right cheekbone and a broken nose. The swelling also closed his eye, taking away vision temporarily.
“My goalie coach said there was blood everywhere on the ice,” said MacIntyre.
MacIntyre spent the day in Baie-Comeau hospital being examined by doctors. He was fortunate enough to be released that afternoon and he went back to the arena that evening to watch his club play. However, with icepack in hand, he still had to take the 600-kilometre bus ride back to Sherbrooke and see a surgeon.
”It wasn’t a fun bus ride,” said MacIntyre.
The Charlottetown, P.E.I. native underwent surgery when he returned to Sherbrooke and missed eight weeks of action while letting his face recover.
“(The doctors) grafted bone from my jaw to fix my cheek,” said MacIntyre.
While the injury could have been a burden to the young goaltender, MacIntyre considered it a blessing in disguise at the time. With the NHL draft just months away, and his season already having struggles prior to the injury, the time off allowed him to re-focus on his future.
“It actually happened at the best time,” said MacIntyre. “I had a horrible start, I was ranked really high going into the season with the draft and I put so much pressure on myself it was ridiculous. Every game I was trying to be a first rounder and I really needed that time off.”
Currently MacIntyre is using a Bauer mask with a custom cage designed by Tony Priolo, the same man behind Tim Thomas’ Mage mask. It looks more like a junior-style helmet with straight bars for the cage, which the Canadian Hockey League made mandatory for all its goalies shortly after MacIntyre’s injury.
The design change is minimal, and difficult to notice from afar, but MacIntyre has made it clear that safety is just as important as style.
“My career was millimetres away from being over. I wouldn’t have been very good without my eye,” said MacIntyre. “I’ve gone back to the cat-eyes a few times to try but I’m a little shy.”