Wade MacLeod’s not really a fighter, at least not in the conventional hockey sense.
MacLeod has averaged a minor penalty every couple of pro games but the Marlies 26-year-old winger is authoring one of the compelling stories of the AHL season.
MacLeod was playing at home for the Springfield Falcons, last February against Adirondack when he absorbed a hard hit into the boards. He remembers the hit, remembers being carted away via stretcher and ferried to hospital by ambulance.
“The guy got a two-minute penalty and our captain said ‘Macker, we’re on the power play. Are you all right?’I got dizzy and I collapsed. Next thing I knew I was in the stretcher in the ambulance.”
What he doesn’t remember is the seizure he suffered, a seizure caused by a golf-ball sized non cancerous tumour on the left side of his brain.
Follow up CT scans revealed the tumor.
“The doctor who looked at the CT scan gave me the bad news,” MacLeod remembered. ‘She said ‘we did the scan and there is something there and it’s not good,’ he said.
A month after the hit, MacLeod underwent a four-hour operation in Boston to remove the tumor.
MacLeod soon resumed training and when Springfield opted not to re-sign him MacLeod’s determination to play pro hockey redoubled.
“I really worked hard this summer back home in Vancouver,” he said. “My girlfriend and trainer were very positive and my family was great through the whole thing,” he said.
MacLeod played four years at Northeastern University and was coached there by current Leafs assistant Greg Cronin. Cronin remembered an industrious winger who scored 61 goals in four seasons at the Boston school.
“To me it was a no-brainer,” Cronin said. “I’m familiar with the American League and what it takes to play there. He can play and he will make your locker room a better place.”
The Leafs tendered MacLeod a tryout contract and after showing well in two exhibition games, MacLeod signed an AHL deal with the Marlies.
So far, MacLeod has been one of the Marlies most consistent forwards.
“He deserves a lot of credit,” said Marlies coach Steve Spott. “He’s a player we originally thought of as a depth player between ourselves and Orlando (the Leafs ECHL affiliate). All he’s done is find a way to work ourselves up on our depth chart.
“The reports on him were that he was a very smart, very reliable two way player with good offensive instincts but a player you could trust defensively as well. He’s definitely made a believer out of us.”
MacLeod has two goals on the season. He said he had more nerves than usual during his first Marlies shift but has had no ill effects.
“I know I’m really lucky the way things turned out but to tell you the truth,” he said, “I’m just glad to have the whole thing behind me.”