What it’s Like Growing Up With a Hockey Hall of Famer for a Dad
By Lauren MacInnis
For the podcast version of this story, click here: The Howl: Episode 1
As the only daughter of 4 children, my mom couldn’t wait to have a figure skater in a family of hockey players. But all I wanted to do was be like my dad and brothers and play hockey.
So when I was 8 years old, standing in line at the concession stand at my childhood ice rink holding my dad’s hand, I pointed to a hockey bag and said I wanted to do that. My dad was lacing up my brother’s old hockey skates on me the next day.
People always ask what’s it like being Al MacInnis’s daughter. I really was too young to understand what a Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medal and Hockey Hall of Fame induction meant. But what I do remember was greeting him at home after a game, and he would always have a new bandage, shoulder wrap, ice pack, limp, or something. And of course, I vividly remember him coming home with a bandage over his eye after he got hit by a high stick, which actually ended up being the injury that ended his career.
But most of my memories of “being Al MacInnis’s daughter” came after his playing career ended. After retiring, he became a coach for the teams each of my brothers and I played for. And when he wasn’t coaching our teams, he was always coaching us and making us better. I remember the moment I learned how to take a slap shot. I still had my hot pink hockey stick and gloves and we were shooting pucks outside in the driveway. He kept telling me that once you learn how, it just clicks and it’s like riding a bike. Shoot down on the puck. Shoot through the net, not at the net. Follow through the shot.
My dad was with me throughout my process at Northeastern. One thing that he was always good at was knowing when to be a parent and when to be a coach. My first few years at Northeastern, I didn’t play as much as I wanted to. I only had a couple shifts my freshman and sophomore year combined. Soon, those positive emotions gave way to hopelessness and disappointment. My freshman year was tough, but many players don’t play that first year. I decided that the next year would be different. My dad helped me with summer training and went over game shifts with me. I got extra ice time by waking up early before class and staying late after practice. All this, only to see the same results. I still had hope that at the end of the year, I would be in uniform when we won Hockey East. But I wasn’t. It seemed that no matter how hard I worked, no matter how many hours I put in, I was never going to get a chance. By junior year, I had lost my love for the game.
One night on the phone my dad asked how I was handling not playing. I had to be honest with him and tell him it was tough and that every game was adding a bigger burden on my shoulders. I felt discouraged with the entire college hockey experience. I was even considering transferring. I didn’t expect him to understand, because how could he?
I didn’t get the response I was expecting. I got a story from when he first moved out of his hometown to play junior hockey when he was 16. He told me that he was a healthy scratch for a significant portion of the season. I was so shocked I didn’t believe him. Of all the stories I’ve heard about my dad, this one had never come up. He kept telling me to hang in there, keep working hard, and when you get the chance make the best of it. And after going over all the pros and cons, I decided to stay and to take his advice: to practice, have fun, and get the love of the game back.
My love for hockey did begin to come back, and I even started playing better. One day, I went into the locker room, and started to get ready for practice. My teammate Brooke [Hobson, senior defenseman] came up to me and said “Hey D partner.” I looked at the board to see my number in the line up with confusion. I looked around the locker room to see if any of the defenders were injured, but everyone was healthy. I had told myself to not look at the lineup anymore because it didn’t matter, until today.
By the time puck drop came around, my nerves were through the roof. I took deep breaths and kept my thoughts positive, but my heart wouldn’t stop pounding. I leaned over to Brooke and told her I was nervous. “Don’t be nervous,” she said with a smile.
I was still nervous.
By the end of my third shift I got to the bench and said “okay, the nerves are gone.” The next shift I scored my very first goal. I’m not sure who was more excited, me or my teammates. I would do it again too, to end my first game with two goals, an assist, and most importantly as a defenseman, a shutout.
I kept my mindset that I was playing because I loved the game, and from then on my career seemed to take off. Then came the Beanpot. We hadn’t won a Beanpot in seven years, and it was something we had talked about all year. So here I am, not expecting many shifts and thinking that that was okay, because being on the bench was a big step up from when I was sitting in the stands. Unexpectedly though, I was put into a role I had never been in before. I was playing more shifts than I ever had, and I was put on a power play unit that I had never practiced with. My first shift in this new role, BU scored. I was devastated, but I knew the game wasn’t over… not even close. The game went into double overtime and I was exhausted and running only on adrenaline. After the longest game of my life, it was all over within a single second, because I shot the puck in the right spot. I scored the game winning goal in double overtime of the Beanpot championship. Me, a healthy scratch for two and a half years. I felt everything at once. Shock, disbelief, happy, excited, relieved. My dad tells me how crazy it is how my season turned around for me, but that he always knew that it would happen.
People always ask what’s it like being Al MacInnis’s daughter and if I have a slap shot like him. My response is always the same, that he taught me everything I know… And that I have the harder slap shot. To everyone else my dad may be a hockey legend with a hard shot, but to me, he is just Dad.