Recently I had what seemed like a pretty funny idea. The Marlies were in Texas and I had Drew MacIntyre, on camera, talk about some interesting and obscure facts about Texas (there are a good number of them, like the ranch that is as big as Rhode Island) and I was going to have the rest of the team simply say ‘Texas is really big.” It was a bit of nod to the idea that we seldom know much about the places we visit but it also landed firmly in the world of stereotyping athletes as all brawn no brain.
“So the rest of us look like meatheads?” Andrew MacWilliam asked with a knowing smile and more than willing to play along. I finished the video up but thought about those words a great deal.
There is MacWilliam, a few weeks later, on the bus, crammed into a seat beside Stuart Percy, reading a book. Not reading it on an e-reader, a tablet, or any other electronic device, he is reading a hard copy of “Waiter Rant,”
a book about the service industry. That he is reading at all is not just an anomaly on the bus but in society. Let’s face it, we read what we know and if someone is reading on the bus, it’s about hockey. One thing university can do for you? Create that culture of life long, all world, learning.
“My Dad.” Simple answer really. MacWilliam’s father, a lawyer, had all the facts he needed. Hockey success can be a lottery, better to trade on it with an education. He encouraged Andrew to choose school and let hockey take him there.
“I was offered to stay in Spokane as a 16 year old but went back to play midget in Calgary, was fortunate enough to play on a championship (Camrose Kodiaks) and get a scholarship.” North Dakota, home of the legendary hockey program, was where MacWilliam was enticed to play.
“Nothing against Major Junior but I think if you’re going to develop, you’re going to develop anyway. Why not get an education along the way? I know guys who left in their junior year, turned pro, but then finished their degrees when they went pro because they had time on their hands.” His parents are thanked several times and in the world of interviews you hear that a lot but what you don’t often hear is the realization.
“I don’t think I could thank my Dad enough not just for hockey but for the NCAA experience. To play a big time sport, there is nothing like it, with hockey being number one at UND, I got a small taste what some of these huge football or basketball programs are like. They way you are treated by the fans, the city…incredible” North Dakota is an original fan base. Their fans have rituals that fit the flattery concept. Often imitated. As more Fight Sioux facts are whisked about in the conversation and MacWilliam talks about his college hockey days he admits to getting goose bumps.
“I could have left after my junior year but…I really wanted my Senior year. I wanted to be there.”
Cashing a cheque to play a game has been an eye opener but that hasn’t caught him off guard, something you get the impression that doesn’t happen to him too often. It is the pro grind that surprises him, but it is also the realization that the game has more learning in it.
“Lot of bus rides, lot of travel, mid-week games and I have tons to learn…so much to learn. When you’re young it’s your Mom, your friends parents, taking you to games, teaching you, there is so much support in your community. Here? It’s you. It’s your team. It’s up to you to make the most of it.” Making the most of it he is, Steve Spott named him as an alternate captain for road games.
Grounded might be over used as a personal identifier but it fits here.
“I was talking to my buddies saying I could maybe get a second job in the summers…” asked in the way only best friends can, they asked what his first job was. “…professional athlete. It’s unbelievable we play a sport and get paid to do it. Humbling.”
The video in Texas? Never aired it. I’m no fan of misrepresentation. That alone should have told me it wasn’t funny. And it played on a stereotype that doesn’t really exist, any more than it does in regular society. But mostly, I didn’t continue with it because a voice of reason and maturity sounded in my head that told me it just wasn’t accurate, that voice sounded a lot like Andrew MacWilliam.