The moment can be traced back three years ago after they arrived with their then 14-year-old son Nathan at Shattuck-Saint Mary’s prep school in Faribault, Minn. He would embark on the next stage of his blossoming hockey career.
“Eventually it was time for goodbyes. Nathan was on his own; he was beaming.
“He was so pumped, so happy,” remembers Kathy. “I was thinking he might have second thoughts or their might be tears in his eyes. But he was happy, excited because he saw the big picture. He wanted the challenge.”
Indeed he was. In two seasons suiting up for the school’s team, which fellow Cole Harbour native and NHL superstar Sidney Crosby played for, MacKinnon racked up 194 points in just 98 games.
Since then the now 17-year-old’s remarkable success has been well documented right up to his latest accomplishment, leading the Halifax Mooseheads to their first ever Memorial Cup complete with MVP honours.
He saw to it that his parents and sister, Sarah, were right there with him on the ice celebrating.
He’s forfeited plenty of teenage pleasures. But whatever he might have lost along the way he has more than made up for in his relentless pursuit to be his best.
“Hockey is who is,” says Kathy. “I know it might sound hokey but it is what he wants to do.”
Graham, who Kathy calls Nathan’s coach, mentor and sounding board, agrees.
“It’s about him chasing his dream,” says Graham. “It ‘s not really a sacrifice. He’s doing something that he loves to do.”
Nathan’s ultimate goal will come within a hair of being realized at Sunday’s NHL draft where he’s widely predicted to be the No.1 pick.
But the MacKinnons couldn’t care less whether he goes first, second or third.
“It’s such a great new chapter for him, whether he comes back here next fall or goes to an NHL team, it doesn’t matter,” says Kathy. “Getting his name called on Sunday is just so exciting.”
Inevitably the pressure will mount. Cole Harbour’s golden boy will be in a league of men fighting to make a mark in an unforgiving world of the NHL. But other 18-year-olds have done it and his parents have no doubt Nathan will too.
Inevitable comparisons with Crosby will continue. But he’s dealt with that long ago.
“I always said you don’t have to be Sidney Crosby, just be yourself but just work like Sidney Crosby,” said Graham. “But we never have compared Nathan to anyone.”