By Dan Saevig
Toledo Blade Sports Writer
Less than a year ago, goaltender Joey MacDonald came to work with the likes of Raitis Ivanans, Seabrook Satterlund, Mike Hamlin and Marc Higginbotham.
Last Thursday, the Storm’s 2001-02 most valuable player in a mostly forgettable 28-34-10 nonplayoff season reported to a new office – the Joe Louis Arena dressing room of the Detroit Red Wings.
MacDonald was in Houston on Wednesday with his Grand Rapids teammates preparing for an American Hockey League game the next night when Coach Danton Cole pulled him aside and told him that Wings starter Curtis Joseph (CuJo) had the flu.
Detroit needed someone to back up Manny Legace, and its choice was MacDonald, 22, who had never dressed for a regular-season National Hockey League contest.
The next morning MacDonald was at the Joe for the morning skate in preparation for an appearance by the Boston Bruins.
Back at the rink around 4:30 p.m., he was the first player to arrive for the 8 o’clock faceoff.
“Brett Hull came in and said, ‘Hey JoJo, what’s up, buddy?” MacDonald recalled. “Darren McCarty and Luc Robitaille came in and started chatting it up with me. CuJo came over to see how I was doing. It was amazing.”
That Joseph came over to chat was not good for MacDonald. CuJo didn’t feel well enough to start, but he did back up Legace. MacDonald watched the game from upstairs and afterward was sent back to the AHL.
“But hey, it was just great being there and watching the game,” MacDonald said.
With the Storm, MacDonald went 12-15-7 with a goals against average of 2.88. The GAA is remarkable in that Greensboro was the only team in the then 29-club ECHL to allow more goals (278) than Toledo’s 265.
“I knew we didn’t have a real good hockey team,” MacDonald said. “Toledo was a great town to play in. The rink, I just love the atmosphere. I just tried to make the most of it. I knew Detroit was watching me. I just had to try to win some games.”
The Wings signed MacDonald at the end of December to a three-year contract that began this season.
After playing half of one NHL preseason game this year, a 3-1 win over Columbus, MacDonald went to Grand Rapids. There he has posted a 2-2 record with team bests in GAA (2.25) and save percentage (.916), sharing time with veteran Marc Lamothe.
“Hopefully, I’ll get another couple of chances up there this year,” said MacDonald, who admits to following the Storm and its hot start this season. “Every time I get in I’ve got to prove myself, and when the time comes when they need to call on someone, I want to give them a tough decision to make.
“Just getting the call was great. Backup first, then just wait your turn. You’ve got to be patient, got to wait your turn.”