As skaters from the Charlotte Checkers and Toronto Marlies took to the Time Warner Cable Arena ice, Checkers’ goaltender Drew MacIntyre paused for an extra second to glance around at the multitude of familiar faces.
MacIntyre spent the majority of the previous two seasons surrounded by the Royal Blue sweaters of the Marlies, reviving his career one save at a time before signing with the Checkers during the offseason.
“That’s a place that will always be very dear to my heart, that’s for sure,” said MacIntyre, 31, whose squad dropped a 4-1 decision to the Marlies in front of 5,191 Thursday.
“I was going through a tough patch in my career and I was kind of looking for a job and nobody was wanting to take me – and they did.”
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After an injury led to a short-lived stint in the Kontinental Hockey League in 2012, MacIntyre, returned to the states unsure of his future.
Thanks to the urging of Maple Leafs goalie coach Rick St. Croix – who worked with MacIntyre when the two were with Manitoba (Winnipeg) – he signed a contract to play for the ECHL’s Reading Royals at age 29 and shortly thereafter found his way to the Marlies.
The following season, the Maple Leafs gave MacIntyre his first career NHL start.
“It was a lot of fun and (my family and I) will always remember it there,” MacIntyre said. “We were really disappointed when they didn’t sign me back, but it wasn’t meant to be and it’s been a new chapter for me here in Charlotte.”
After Charlotte ran through a franchise-record nine goaltenders last season, coach Jeff Daniels made signing MacIntyre a priority.
“We wanted to make sure we had the depth in the net in case something happened, whether it was a call-up or an injury,” said Daniels, whose team fell to 14-20-4-1. “Mac was high on our list, if not No. 1 along with John Muse.
“On the flip side of that, if something happens up top (with the Carolina Hurricanes), Mac is a guy that can go up and play games for them. He’s knocking on the door and waiting for that chance.”
MacIntyre’s new chapter in Charlotte has been an eventful one.
Of the team’s 14 wins, he has been in net for 12. The most recent vaulted him into sole possession of 10th place on the AHL’s all-time wins list with 204.
“I’m completely honored,” he said when asked about the accomplishment. “When I was a kid, if you had told me that I’d make it into the Top 10 in the AHL in wins, I would have been pretty tickled. It’s something that I have to pinch myself about sometimes.
“With that being said, I’m disappointed that I haven’t played more games in the NHL, but I’m very thankful to be put in that breath with the Top 10. And I’m still trying to make the NHL. Hopefully, I still get a chance to do that.”