By: Michael Lenko, Peak Associate
Editor’s note — correction: In a previous version of this article, the ECHL was referred to as the East Coast Hockey League. While this was the name of the League from its inception in 1988 through the end of the 2002–03 season, the name was changed to just ECHL on May 19, 2003 when the League welcomed seven expansion teams in the western United States.
SFU Hockey alumnus Ian Mackey is aiming to impress a new team and coaching staff this season after signing a professional contract with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL. The Komets are the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.
Mackey started the season with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, appearing in one pre-season game before catching the eye of the Komets’ coaching staff. A full season in the ECHL will be a great development opportunity for Mackey, given that the league is just two steps below the NHL. Mackey, coming off a season in which he scored four points in 16 games for the Clan, will look to improve his scoring touch in his new role with the Komets. Mackey won’t be the first of his family to play professional hockey either, as his father David spent 14 seasons in professional hockey and appeared in 126 NHL games during his career. The Peak sat down with Mackey to talk about his foray into professional hockey.
“I was fortunate enough to get invited to the Chicago Wolves training camp and then was seen and recruited by the Fort Wayne coaching staff during my time there,” Mackey said, pointing to a lucky break and some hard work as factors in the ECHL opportunity coming his way.
While the invite to the Wolves camp may have been the break Mackey needed to get a chance to show what he can do on the ice in a professional setting, he pointed to his two years with the Clan as a main reason he got the opportunity.
“I believe my time with the Clan, especially with playing fewer games and having more practices, allowed me to focus on my physical fitness and skill development in a way that junior hockey doesn’t allow for,” he said.
Having now secured his first contract with the Komets, The Peak asked Mackey what he expects of his first year of pro hockey.
“The expectations and goals I have for myself are to keep improving each day and to be an impact player on the team, night in and night out,” he said.
“The advice my dad gave me is to just work hard and play my game and do the things that have helped me get here in the first place. He definitely also stressed to make sure I’m always taking care of my body because it’s such a long season [in pro hockey].”
Though the length of the season is sure to provide challenges in terms of maintaining physical and mental acuity, Mackey noted that the proximity of Fort Wayne to his home in Chicago will ease his transition to the Komets.
“Living in Fort Wayne has been really nice so far. Being so far away from home over the last few years, it’s nice to be able to see my family a bit more, although I definitely miss the mountains and the ocean.”
This familiarity with the area, and the nearby support from his family, should allow Mackey to centre his focus on his on-ice performance this season.
The SFU Hockey front office and coaching staff are proud of Ian’s accomplishments. Director of Player Experience and Education Ryan Sandrin, a former teammate of Mackey, told The Peak, “I got to know Mackey well playing with him over the last two years, and I have nothing but good things to say. We chatted countless times about his professional aspirations, so it is awesome to see his hard work pay off. Mackey is a great character guy in the room and one of the hardest working and most passionate guys to put on an SFU sweater. The whole organization is excited for Ian, and we wish him the best in Fort Wayne.”
With Mackey making the jump to professional hockey this season, he will be the second member of the 2018–19 Clan to sign a professional contract. Former team captain and British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) MVP Mathew Berry-Lamontagna will also be suiting up for HK Budapest in the top Hungarian pro league. Over the last three seasons, the SFU Hockey program has been successful in facilitating the jump to pro hockey for five former players.