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Former Jr. A Bearcat MacDonald rises through the ranks

Andrew MacDonald, who played junior A hockey with the Truro Bearcats for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons, has patrolled the blueline for the Philadelphia Flyers for the past five seasons. Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images
Andrew MacDonald, who played junior A hockey with the Truro Bearcats for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons, has patrolled the blueline for the Philadelphia Flyers for the past five seasons. Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images - SaltWire Network

PHILADELPHIA, PA. – His journey to the NHL may have had more than a few stops and the odd bump in the road, but Judique’s Andrew MacDonald wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I always joke with friends that I think I hit all of the leagues along the way,” said MacDonald after his Philadelphia Flyers practised at home last week. “Junior A to Major Junior to East Coast to the American League to the NHL. I’ve learned things from each stop along the way and that’s part of growing up as a player and as a person.”

It was a decision 13 years ago that helped send MacDonald on his path to the NHL.

Following his second season as a smooth-skating defenceman with the Truro Bearcats of the Maritime Hockey League, MacDonald was recruited by Dartmouth’s Danny Flynn, then an assistant coach for the Moncton Wildcats.

MacDonald decided to forgo a scholarship to Bemidji State University in Minnesota and join the QMJHL’s Wildcats.

MacDonald and the Wildcats went on to win the QMJHL title. Flynn and head coach Ted Nolan moved to the New York Islanders that off-season and the organization drafted MacDonald in the sixth round.

“Danny gave me a really good opportunity in Moncton,” said MacDonald. “I was kind of the no-name kid from Junior A. He took a chance on me and gave me time to find my game at that level. I had a lot of confidence knowing that he trusted me out there and that really helped my development. I can’t say enough about the experience overall.”

After some seasoning in the American Hockey League followed by five seasons with the Islanders, MacDonald was traded to Philadelphia in March of 2014 and shortly thereafter signed a six-year, $30-million contract.

But in October 2015, with Flyers GM Ron Hextall looking for some roster flexibility, MacDonald was the last cut out of training camp and placed on waivers. With such a large salary, no team claimed him and it was back to the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

“It was a pretty trying time,” said MacDonald. “I learned a lot about myself. I tried to hold the mindset the whole time that I was good enough to get back to the NHL and contribute and help a team win. It was tough but I think it made me mentally stronger to realize I could get through something like that. I had a great support system with my wife. We’d just had our little boy and he was a good distraction, if you will, to keep my mind off things. I had a lot of support from family and friends and I’ve been lucky to have those types of people in my life.”

After 43 games with Lehigh Valley, MacDonald was recalled by the Flyers and has been there ever since.

At 31, he’s the elder statesman among their defencemen.

MacDonald was reminded of that during our interview when his locker room neighbour, Shane Ghostisbehere, said, “He’s so old.”

He’s a reliable shot blocker and stay-at-home presence on a team with a good mix of young and veteran players.

Dan is in his fourth season as the play-by-play voice of the Montreal Canadiens on TSN 690 radio. He grew up in Trenton.

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