Short of having the soundtrack from Rocky playing in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room, there isn’t anything missing from the feel-good story that is Steve MacIntyre’s ascent to the NHL.
After seven seasons and 418 games slugging it out in the minors, it looks like the 28-year-old tough guy from Brock, SK will play his first NHL game against the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday.
It’s a long overdue payoff for MacIntyre, who not only excels in one of the most dangerous jobs in sports, but who has accepted the risks that come with it so that he can provide for his family.
With a wife and three young children to feed, a two-way contract worth $525,000 will pay MacIntyre more for spending the next two weeks on the Oilers roster than he’s pocketed in some entire seasons punching for pay in the low minors.
He deserves every penny.
“Absolutely,” said MacIntyre when I asked him if he’s contemplated what it’ll be like to change tax brackets. “That’s the way I make my living right now.
“There’s not too many jobs where you can do what I do and make good money like I do. I think of it in those terms—I’m putting food on the table for my kids.”
Anybody with a computer and YouTube bookmarked knows the hulking six-foot-six, 265-pound MacIntyre, who was picked up on waivers from Florida, isn’t scared to get his hands dirty.
But we’re not just talking about snot, blood and saliva from the likes of Jim Vandermeer of the Calgary Flames or the meatheads MacIntyre tenderized along the way in his journey to The Show.
Having played for as little as $400 a week with teams like the Bay County Blizzard of the CEHL and Muskegon Fury of the UHL since his final WHL season with Prince Albert and Red Deer, MacIntyre isn’t about to turn up his bent nose at being near the bottom of the NHL pay scale.
Get a real job
He’s spent off-seasons working on the family farm, in a feed lot and in various other back-busting pursuits to make ends meet. There isn’t a spoiled bone in MacIntyre’s massive body.
“I’ve been able to scrimp and scrounge and my wife’s got a good job,” he said. “I had to pick up odd jobs in the minors and I helped my dad on the farm. It’s tough, but…”
MacIntyre’s best contract in the AHL called for him to make $65,000 a season. That’s decent dough for a working stiff, but not a big stack for putting life and limb on the line when the national anthem ends. Most seasons, he made far less than half of that.
If MacIntyre sticks on the Oilers roster all year, he’ll earn eight times more than he has in any previous season. With baby needing new shoes—MacIntyre and his wife Briana have a four-month-old—it’s about time all that pain started to pay off.
“It’s a great story,” said coach Craig MacTavish, who wouldn’t say today if MacIntyre will definitely dress against the Ducks. “He’s kind of endeared himself to everybody, including our players.
“You can’t help but admire a guy like that who is so passionate. The other thing is his love of the Oilers. It’s just incredible. It’s a great story and, hopefully, one he can live up to and play a bit.”
What’s not to like about MacIntyre? As we’ve found out in recent weeks, he grew up cheering for the Oilers. His favourite player was ruffian Marty McSorley. When MacIntyre makes his long awaited debut, he’ll be wearing No. 33.
What makes me pull for MacIntyre is that he’s loved the game more than the game has loved him, at least to this point. That’s why he’s fought the good fight to beat the odds and keep the dream alive.
Even if MacIntyre doesn’t widen Chris Pronger’s gap-toothed grin by an incisor or two or apply a metacarpal moustache massage to George Parros Wednesday, it’ll be a game he never forgets.
“To be toiling in the minors for this long and to have the Oilers give me a chance to play an NHL game, it feels like a big accomplishment,” said MacIntyre. “We’ll see what happens.”