100-year-old hockey stick donated to Membertou Heritage Park
MEMBERTOU, N.S. — Legend has it the Mi’kmaq were the first to play the game of hockey hundreds of years ago.
Josh MacLeod is a goaltender with the Avon River Rats.
WINDSOR, N.S. - Josh MacLeod isn’t afraid to let his emotions show during a heated hockey game, in fact, he admits, it probably helps to stoke some on the ice himself.
Extending his stick at the scoreboard mockingly, throwing his hands up in exacerbation, he’s just entertaining to watch — especially for a goalie.
MacLeod said there’s nothing malicious about his antics, that it’s all for the fun of the game.
“Being able to compete, being out on the rink, it’s kind of like freedom,” he said. “It’s a way to get away from every day life.”
This is MacLeod’s first year playing with the Avon River Rats — a Junior C hockey team that has been having one of their best seasons to date.
“I’m loving this year. We’ve got a great coaching staff, they’re probably one of the youngest in the league and they’re probably the best as well,” he said. “We’ve got a great team. All four lines can score and defensemen, they can all go out and shut a line down if we need to. I feel like we’ve got the best team in the league.”
MacLeod presently leads the league in minutes played with 1,055. MacLeod has a save percentage of .890 to date this season and a goals against average of 3.64.
MacLeod, now 19, has been playing hockey since he was five, and goaltending since seven. He calls the game a “life-long passion.”
Josh Macleod, goaltender for the Avon River Rats, keeps a close eye on the puck.
Working on technique
“In high school hockey, me and my defense would say this thing before the game – ‘see the puck, feel the puck and be the puck,’ and ever since then I’ve tried to get in that rhythm,” he said.
He admits that sometimes he can get a little too out of hand, and is working on reigning himself in.
“Trying to stay focused and calm in the nets, taking every shot as it comes,” he said. “Some games can get heated for sure.
“I like to play the puck a lot, so that gets me moving around on the ice, working with the defense a lot,” he said. “When the play is in the other end, we have a lot of good forwards, it’s good because I get a lot of breaks.”
MacLeod said he’s grateful to be playing with the top team in the league, but that can also add extra pressure.
“It’s a lot harder sometimes playing a game where you’ll only get 15 shots on net as opposed to a game with 40 shots because then you’re in it, you have no time to break,” he said. “You’re constantly thinking about the next one.”
MacLeod said you can’t have a good team without a good defense and good offence.
MacLeod says there are times when he can get caught up in the emotion of the game and is hoping to mitigate that during the playoffs.
“Sometimes when I get worked up it takes me out of the game,” he said.
“I don’t take things too seriously on or off the ice, I can chat with them after the game no problem, but business has to be done when you’re on the ice,” he added.
Goaltender Josh MacLeod gives a Colts player, Gregor Dawe, a joust as he approaches the River Rats net.
Off the ice
Outside of hockey, MacLeod, who lives in Enfield, is currently attending Success College in Lower Sackville for corrections and policing.
He plays baseball in the summer months and enjoys outdoor activities such as four-wheeling and exploring nature.
“I definitely want to continue with the Avon River Rats next year,” he said. “Personally I find Junior B is taken way too seriously. We are a lower level in Junior C, but we’re still there to get a job done.”
MacLeod said he was asked to play at the Junior B level, but said it wasn’t for him.
The Avon River Rats will return to the rink in January, with the playoffs set to begin soon after. MacLeod said he’s anticipating some tough competition.
“The season is important, but it’s the playoffs when you really get tested,” he said. “But if we all stay in a positive place, I think we have a chance at winning the title.”
Past experience an asset
One of MacLeod’s strengths is his ability to snatch the puck out of the air, seemingly with ease. He said he owes that to some of his past experience.
“I played a lot of softball growing up — shortstop, pitcher and a little bit of catching — so that comes naturally to me,” he said. “Even if it comes across my blocker side, sometimes I’ll shoot over and try to grab it with my glove, which nine times out of 10 I feel like I can.”
Josh MacLeod said he’s hoping to play with the Avon River Rats next year and is hoping to help them win the championship title this year.
Getting the job done
Matt Lyttle, head coach of the Avon River Rats, said he’s been very impressed with MacLeod’s performance so far.
“He’s been really good for us, he’s kept us in a lot of hockey games, given us a chance to win,” Lyttle said. “That’s really what you ask for in a goaltender.”
Lyttle said MacLeod is a competitor through and through, with a strong drive to win.
“He’s an emotional guy I guess. He gets fired up,” he said. “He battles it out in the net and gets it done.
“Each night, even when he’s not on his game, he works at finding it,” he said. “He’s got a really good glove hand, and the way he moves in the net, he plays it a little deep, which can be negative, but is really good with his blocker and glove.”
This is Lyttle’s first year in the head coach role, after helping out the year prior.
“The month of January is going to be tougher for us; we’re playing some great teams like Metro and Spryfield that are right behind us,” he said. “It’s going to be down to the wire for those top three spots.”
Lyttle attributes MacLeod’s skill between the pipes as one of the team’s strengths.
“Josh has been a huge part of where we are now, we’ve played a few really close hockey games,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of wins in overtime in shootouts, and that’s solely on him.”
The River Rats currently stand at 16 wins, four losses, putting them at the top spot in the league.