ONTARIO, Calif. – He was just playing a puck in the early moments of the second period, in a Dec. 12 home game against the Florida Panthers – a team he once played for. It should have been just a routine exchange between him and Florida’s Ryan Lomberg. MacDonald, playing the puck, was to take a hit from Lomberg in trying to gain the puck. About 99% of the time, nothing would have happened from such an exchange.
But MacDonald, for whatever reason, kept his head down a little longer than usual for a D-man just trying to get a puck out of the zone and get off the ice so others could take their next shift. Seeing an opportunity to hit a guy who had just made himself a bit too vulnerable, Lomberg finished through with his check with more force, and that’s when things kind of went blank for MacDonald, at that time a depth defenseman on the Colorado Avalanche.
“I had no idea. I don’t remember anything in the second period,” MacDonald told Colorado Hockey Now. “I don’t remember what time it happened. The second period is a blur.”
MacDonald suffered a concussion from the hit, and would up missing some significant time. A lot of people would outraged by the hit, which would require a stretcher to get him off the ice. The next few days were a “blur”, he said.
Yet, on a recent weekend night after a Colorado Eagles win over the Ontario Reign in which MacDonald played a regular shift, the Oregon native said it was a “clean hit” by Lomberg.
“Yeah, he made contact with the chin, but the shoulder was down,” MacDonald said. “From my perspective, it’s just an unfortunate part of hockey sometimes.”
MacDonald, 29, played seven games for the Avs, rehabbed with the team after the injury, but was sent back to the Eagles when he got healthy. He has played a regular shift since with the Eagles, and been one of their best players. In 26 games for the Eagles, MacDonald has six goals and 16 points, with a plus-7.
Getting a call-up from the Avalanche won’t be easy. The Avs are stacked, with a defense getting healthier. A spot for MacDonald wouldn’t seem likely. But he’s played well enough for the Eagles to give confidence in Avs brass they wouldn’t embarrass themselves in calling him up.
Having gone through life with a concussion, MacDonald said, “It took a few days. It’s just a really interesting thing. It’s a weird time, not really knowing what’s going on. You just try to rest and recover as bet you can. It’s a scary injury, but I’m glad to be back.”
MacDonald still figures to be one of the Avs’ first callups in case injuries to the defense occur. He has also shown he can play some forward too, so it wouldn’t be out of the question to see his name be one of the first call-ups in case injuries strike.
MacDonald, who has a well-muscled 6-foot, 205-pound frame, is a left shot. So, if either a Bo Byram or Sam Girard injury happened in the short-term, MacDonald could well get another callup. as they are both lefties.
Regardless, MacDonald says he is “grateful” for the situation he’s in. The Eagle could challenge for a Calder Cup, and MacDonald is getting a regular shift. He’s making $375,000 at the AHL level, and $750,000 at the NHL level.
He wants to get back with the Avs, but his Cornell education knows that might be a longshot at this point. One of the guys ahead of him on the depth chart, Bo Byram, just overcame his latest battle with concussions.
“We talked about it a little bit,” MacDonald said. “Everybody’s is different. It’s the same injury, but everybody’s process to go through it was different and we had a different process. Obviously, it’s something you take your time with, because it’s life. It’s not a game. Bo’s a good kid though, and we (knew) we wouldn’t see him long here.”
If MacDonald can’t play for a Stanley Cup, he thinks the Eagles can win a Calder Cup. If he can help accomplish that, it would be a great ending to what he calls “a weird year.”