NEWARK, N.J. – Why not?
It’s a simple message that resides on the backplate of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Drew MacIntyre’s mask, not far from a collection of cartoon characters – a Care Bear, My Little Pony and a kangaroo from Winnie The Pooh – that represent his wife and two daughters.
So why not? Why not Drew MacIntyre? Why not a start for the personable 30-year-old, who made his first NHL appearance since Nov. 25, 2011 after fellow ECHL alum James Reimer was pulled during a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday?
“It was nice to get in, it’s been a while,” he said after the game. “I felt comfortable, which I was expecting…I was ready to play. It wasn’t good that I went in, but I felt good once I got in.”
MacIntyre’s career has been a series of twists and turns. It began with the ECHL’s Toledo Storm during the 2003-04 season, and he split time between Toledo and their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids until moving on to the Vancouver Canucks organization in 2006-07. It was with them that he’d see his first NHL experience, drawing mop-up duty in two games, before bouncing around between the Nashville Predators, Montreal Canadiens and Atlanta Thrashers systems without seeing any NHL time.
A season spent in the Buffalo Sabres organization in 2011-12 earned him two more NHL games, but still no starts. The following year was spent between the KHL, the ECHL’s Reading Royals and the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. It was with the latter team where MacIntyre once again was able to re-establish himself, posting a 1.83 goals against average and .931 save percentage in 21 regular season appearances.
The previous two seasons, to be sure, were a whirlwind.
“I believe it happens for a reason,” he told ECHL.com after the media scrum had dissipated.
“I don’t complain in those situations. It’s all part of the journey, and I’m thankful for the moments in the (ECHL) just as thankful as I am for these.”
His performance in the ECHL earned him a trip to the AHL, and his performance there earned him a one-year, two-way deal for this season, and ultimately put him where he was on Sunday, back on NHL ice. But with five NHL games scattered through 11 pro seasons, there’s still one thing left for him to do.
“I’ve never had a start,” he said.
“I’m still waiting, and I’d love for it to come some day and see what I can do without being thrown in midway through or whatever at some point of the game.”
MacIntyre was perfect on Sunday, stopping all 14 shots he faced in 36:04 worth of ice time. That in itself is somewhat remarkable given the challenges of coming into the game completely cold.
“It’s not fun,” he said. “It’s not a good feeling, because it just feels like everything’s going so fast around you no matter what level you’re at. As long as you can get through the first little bit, you’re good. You get warm and you get comfortable.”
With Reimer still very much so in the mix and the injured Jonathan Bernier set to return shortly, MacIntyre may once again find himself sent down once again. But while he’s here, why not Drew MacIntyre?
Why not you, Drew?