Dylan MacDonald is a humble 18-year-old that just wants to play hockey. The
road to get there hasn’t been easy, though.
The Jordanville, N.S., native is a second-year defenceman with the Cape
Breton West Islanders, the Atlantic Region champions, but had to make a
jump in skill level and commit to a long commute to make the roster.
Prior to cracking the Islanders’ roster 2015, MacDonald was playing Midget
B – “pond hockey,” as he puts it – in Sherbrooke, N.S., the closest
community to Jordanville, with the St. Mary’s Coyotes.
“I’ve played hockey my whole life and I learned to skate when my father
used to build outdoor rinks in the backyard,” said MacDonald. “As I got
older, I played in Sherbrooke, but there weren’t going to be enough players
for the team in Midget B and now the team no longer exists.”
Like many young hockey players in rural areas across Canada, MacDonald was
forced to look elsewhere to play. He made the decision to jump from Midget
B to Minor Midget and make the trip north to Cape Breton to try out for the
“Dylan was an unknown that arrived at our spring identification camp in May
2015. He was just a raw kid, but as each practice and workout went, he
showed great potential,” said Brian MacInnis, president of the Islanders.
“His compete level was very high and his decision making was very good. He
showed that he had the solid makings of a good defensive-style defenceman.”
MacDonald did what he could to impress the coaching staff and made the team
out of camp. His journey to play high-calibre hockey began with a one hour,
40 minute commute one way, a drive he continues to make.
“I am pretty driven and dedicated, so the travel isn’t a big deal. I also
have teammates that commute, so we take turns carpooling,” said MacDonald.
“I didn’t get to play as much as I would have liked in Sherbrooke, so I did
what I had to do to play at a high level.”
There was never a thought for the MacDonald family to move closer to Cape
Breton or for Dylan to billet there during the season. “It is a long drive,
but my I don’t mind and neither do my parents,” said MacDonald. “They enjoy
coming to games and being there for me.”
MacDonald knows that without the support of his parents, Julie and George
MacDonald, he wouldn’t be able to have this opportunity. “They’ve played a
big role in my development and the ability to play. If it wasn’t for them
helping out with costs and travel, I wouldn’t be able to do this,”
explained MacDonald. “Last year, I didn’t have my licence, so they drove me
there and back for each practice and game. They never complained.”
MacDonald also does what he can to help cover the costs of playing by
chopping wood and mowing lawns. Despite the untraditional job, MacDonald
has been a helping with the family business since he was 12 years old.
“A lot of people here burn firewood … it is their source of heat in the
wintertime,” he said. “It is a pretty demanding resource and since my dad
sells firewood, that’s how I got involved.”
As expected, chopping wood also got MacDonald into great shape and prepared
him for the season. “It definitely builds strength and endurance,” he said.
On the ice, as MacDonald got more confident in his abilities and
understanding of systems and positioning, the Islanders used him in more
situations, including penalty kills and against top opponents.
“He has a great attitude, a great team player and a quiet kid that just
goes out and plays the game the right way,” said MacInnis. “You would never
know his background playing Midget B. He fits in and competes hard every
night in the corners and in front of the net. He does his job in an
efficient manner. We are very impressed with Dylan.”
Even with the juggling of long commutes to and from practice and working in
the family business, MacDonald excels at school, maintaining an average in
the high-90s in his Grade 12 year. He plans on becoming a surveyor after
graduating this summer.
“I pride myself on my academics … school comes easy for me,” he said. “I
just try and do my best every day at school, hockey and in my community.”
Jordanville is certainly behind him as well, as the village held a potluck
fundraiser in early April that raised over $3,000 to help his parents get
to Prince George, B.C., for the TELUS Cup. “They are hard-working folks and
want to do the best by their kid and they are making it possible for him,”