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When Drew MacIntyre last played professional hockey in Toledo, the venerable Toledo Sports Arena sat on the south bank of the Maumee River, and the ECHL’s Storm was still more than a year from going dormant as an organization.
“I’ve played on lots of different teams, and now, the topic of Toledo and the old barn always comes up,” MacIntyre said. “People didn’t like playing there, but they look back and say, ‘oh man, what a wild atmosphere.’ ”
MacIntyre, a former Storm goalie, returned to Toledo on Saturday with the Reading Royals to face the Walleye at the state-of-the-art Huntington Center, which replaced the Toledo Sports Arena. The Walleye are the most recent iteration of minor-league hockey in northwest Ohio. And MacIntyre is now in his 10th season of professional hockey; Saturday at the Huntington Center, MacIntyre made 38 saves in Reading’s 2-1 loss to the Walleye.
The 29-year-old from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, played in 46 games in three seasons for the Toledo Storm (in 2003-2004, 2004-2005, and 2005-2006), and he was part of a Storm team that made a run in the 2006 Kelly Cup playoffs — including a series in which he drove from Toronto to Wheeling, W.Va., to join the Storm after playing for Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League.
MacIntyre’s career, however, hasn’t necessarily been about following a straight path. Selected in the fourth round of the 2001 draft by the Detroit Red Wings, he’s played in the ECHL, AHL, and National Hockey League, and even went to the Kontinental Hockey League in Europe this season. His time in the KHL, however, was short-lived, as a broken ankle sidelined him for two months.
When MacIntyre returned to North America, he had to look for work.
“I couldn’t get a job anywhere,” MacIntyre said. “I had people that were close to me, hinting, asking, ‘are you going to still play?’ ”
When MacIntyre had to decide if his path in hockey would continue, his wife, Karen, gave him one option: keep going.
“She’s seen how I’ve worked hard and how I’ve been close,” MacIntyre said. “We had a lot of bus rides. I’ve been close before and she didn’t want a couple little setbacks to make me quit. She’s seen all these guys I’ve played with in the NHL. And she’s supportive. She knows that I know, in hockey, I’m an old guy, but I still feel like I’m just as good or better as when I was sought after.
“She’s seen the good and bad. We know we’ve been blessed to be able to do this.”
MacIntyre even contacted Walleye coach Nick Vitucci about the possibility of returning to Toledo. But with AHL teams in Rockford and Grand Rapids ready to provide goaltenders when the NHL lockout ended last month, the numbers didn’t work in favor of a return to Toledo for MacIntyre.
“With two affiliate teams each giving us a goaltender, it’s hard to say no to them,” said Vitucci, who coached MacIntyre with the Storm. “But I actually sent out an email to all the coaches and let them know about Drew’s availability and what I thought of him as a person and a goaltender.”
The Royals signed MacIntyre in January and in his first eight games with the Royals, he’s 5-3 with a 1.80 goals-against average and a .938 saves percentage.
“Drew’s somebody that, if you leave the door open a little bit, he’s going to knock it off its hinges,” Vitucci said. “He’s had to do that a few times through his career, and he’s just looking for another opportunity to do that. I think it says a lot about a person at 29, that he’s willing to get back to our league to re-establish himself as a hockey player in North America and work his way back up.”
Prior to Saturday’s game against the Walleye, MacIntyre reflected upon some of the perspective he gained on his path through professional hockey, including his time with the Storm.
“I was there when we were one of the worst teams,” MacIntyre said. “I was there when we made a [playoff] run. I’ve been really lucky to play in some of the best cities in the NHL and AHL, like Grand Rapids, Hamilton, Chicago. Toledo is right up there. I love the game, they love the game, and I know they’re doing a great job with the Walleye.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.