By Justin Skelnik | Photo Contributions by Ross Dettman
Ever since Chicago Wolves goaltender Drew MacIntyre attended his first hockey school at the age of five, the sport has filled his life.
Twenty-one years later, two other things have joined hockey as the major priorities in his life: his family and his religion.
Even when the 26-year-old netminder is on the ice, family and religion are never far from his mind. Just take a look at his collection of tattoos, and the artwork on his hockey equipment.
“All my tattoos have a lot of meaning to me,” said MacIntyre.
“When you look at them you realize what is most important to me in my life. The first tattoo I got was my Scottish family crest on my back. I got it when I was 18. Then, I got one cross on my shoulder, then added another and an angel across the top of my back. I have a quote from the Bible under my arm and I have my daughter’s footprint on my side. Those are all pretty self-explanatory but they are clearly a huge priority in my life.”
He also has a cross on his mask and stick, and the phrase “Why Not?” on both pieces of equipment. The phrase serves as a constant motivator for him when it comes to hockey.
“Alan Andrews, who ran the hockey school I attended as a youth, used to write on my pads Philippines 4:13: ‘through him, all is possible.’ It is what he wanted me to remember. I have kind of made it into a reminder to myself of ‘why can’t I have success here?’ It is another way of saying anything is possible.”
MacIntyre was no stranger to religion growing up. His parents were practicing Christians, but he says he was never pushed toward the church.
“I never had a push, my parents never forced it on me,” he remembered. “I was never even really forced to go to church. My father would go and he would want me to go but I never was required to go. Once I got a little bit older and into my teenage years it was kind of my decision to start getting into religion.”
At the age of 15, MacIntyre moved more than 600 miles away from his Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, home to Sherbrooke, Quebec, to begin his junior hockey career. It was around then that he began to see life from a new perspective.
“Moving away from home kind of forces you to make your own decisions,” said MacIntyre. “The first couple of weeks went by and Sundays would come and I just started to go to church by myself. At that time, I thought I had someone trying to tell me something. It was like someone was knocking on my door, so I decided to answer and that person was God.”
However, he admits that it wasn’t until after his junior career that he truly figured out the place religion would hold in his life.
“I was still a kid throughout my whole junior career,” he said. “I knew religion was important to me but I just didn’t know enough about it. I wasn’t aware that it is so complex.”
MacIntyre acknowledges he does not always have the most ideal schedule as a pro athlete, but his dedication to Christianity doesn’t suffer. He knows that he can’t attend church service every Saturday or Sunday. That is where Alex Pirus of Hockey Ministries International helps MacIntyre and other members of the team.
“Hockey players’ schedules are always changing and they may not have the time to get to church,” said Pirus. “I will meet with the players whenever it is convenient for them to have a chapel service or just talk with them one on one about faith, life, or even the ups-and-downs of pro hockey. It is all voluntary and that is why I think it works.”
MacIntyre has had his share of success throughout his six-plus years in the AHL. Last season, he led the league with a career-high 34 wins as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals. Still, there is more he’d like to accomplish.
He is still working toward the same goal as his teammates, which is to one day make it to the National Hockey League. He had a brief stint in 2007-08, when he appeared in two games with Vancouver, but he is still determined to latch on full-time with an NHL club. If that opportunity comes, he won’t let the success go to his head.
“I was put in this position as a pro hockey player for a reason,” said MacIntyre. “I am not just here in this position to stop pucks and to win hockey games. I want to help and do as much with it as I can. If I can use hockey to help just one person in some way, it is going to mean that much more.”
Hockey already has helped MacIntyre. He admits that his life has changed significantly since he first realized the more serious responsibilities that came along when he turned pro seven years ago.
“I have grown as a person,” said MacIntyre. “I got married three-and-a-half years ago, and now I have a baby daughter. Still, I wish I knew then what I know now, but that is just the way it goes. You learn things on a different path at different times. I have grown so much as a person, a husband and a father through my faith.”