If there is one thing that makes Norfolk Admirals forward Nick MacNeil happy it is to be playing hockey after a two-month hiatus due to an injury that happened during training camp.
The 26-year-old out of Creignish, Nova Scotia is all smiles now after returning to the lineup earlier this month. Sitting out wasn’t much fun as MacNeil put it, “Terrible two months there. It’s unfortunate what happened. It was kind of like a freak accident, what happened. It made me a better person, a stronger person and I was just ready to come back and help this team win.”
Since returning to the lineup the University Of New Brunswick product has registered five points in nine games in an Admirals uniform. Norfolk’s Head Coach Eric Veilleux has been pleased with MacNeil’s performance, “I thought he had a great start. He slowed down a little bit, but he was out for quite a while. I thought right when he started playing he was great. For a guy that did not play for a couple of months, he played great. He’s a big piece, he’s a big body.”
The 6’4” left-handed shot played parts of four seasons in the QMJHL with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. After his time in the “Q” came to a close he used his scholarship package he earned in juniors to attend the University of New Brunswick. There, he studied business administration and while going to school full-time, he still managed to play hockey at the university.
MacNeil’s dance card was full as he said, “Certainly going to school full time is different. Monday to Friday classes, then we play Friday and Saturday. The first year was kind of a learning curve to balance both for me. After my second or third year I kind of figured it out and I started to like school. I knew how important it was in my life. I ended up doing good and getting through my four years.”
After completing his degree, MacNeil turned pro at the tail end of the 2013-2014 season with the Bakersfield Condors, Edmonton’s former ECHL affiliate. The two-way forward described the transition from college to pro saying, “It was certainly a bigger step, from college you’re playing against stronger boys and older guys.”
“I was ready after my fourth-year. I played nine games in Bakersfield. Coming into last year I was comfortable with the area and familiar with everything so that really helped me going into my rookie season last year. I enjoyed Bakersfield a lot. They have great fans and a tremendous booster club.”
Since arriving and playing in Norfolk, MacNeil has grown fond of his new surroundings, “I think it’s a great area. Especially down by the docks. It’s so nice. We’re living in Virginia Beach now and I think it’s a beautiful area. You drive twenty minutes to the rink, but we have a great set-up there. I love walking the boardwalk in Virginia Beach. I know the fans here are very passionate fans.”
MacNeil also went on to say, “We’re going to get a couple wins here together and we’re going to see more and more fans. I can feel it. We’re getting some guys back from the IR and I think we have a good team here and we can do good things.”
Given his two-way playing style MacNeil’s return is welcomed as the Admirals try to improve their record and try to climb their way out of the ECHL’s Eastern Conference cellar.