Former St. Lawrence 100-point man and current Charlotte Checkers forward Mike McKenzie is keeping a journal of his life in American minor hockey. He has agreed to let me share his journals with you every Sunday.
You can follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMcKenzie11
For more McKenzie journals, search "Minor Updates" in the blog archive.
Follow me on Twitter: @SLUHockey
Feb 12, 2011
We lost to Cincinnati to end a very weak road trip. After the game I went out to dinner with my dad. I happened to have my phone on silent and when I looked down I noticed I had a missed call and voicemail from a Florida area code. I checked the voicemail and could only hear the first part saying, “Hey mike it’s Greg (our coach).”
After this the restaurant started drowning out the message and I couldn’t hear the rest. The first thing that came to my mind was maybe I could be getting the call up to Charlotte (AHL).
I went to a quieter spot and re-checked my messages. The first saved message was from Greg, but it ended up being from October when I was on my way to Florida after being sent down from Charlotte. My heart skipped a few beats and I thought, “Oh great, I messed up and that was the message I heard in the restaurant.”
But after listening to another saved message — the last one was from him again — it was what I thought. I called him back right away and he said Jeff Daniels in Charlotte had called him and they needed a guy for their game tomorrow at 3 p.m., so i would fly into Charlotte in the morning. I walked back to the table probably with a huge ear-to-ear grin and told my dad the great news. We were both excited that I had finally earned a chance to take my game to the AHL level.
We finished up our meal quickly so I could get back to the hotel and get some rest. Not only did I get called up, but I was playing the very next afternoon. It was a quick turnaround. It wasn’t an ideal circumstance, but when they say “jump” you say “how high?”
I’d be lying if I told you I slept well that night. I usually never have trouble sleeping no matter what, but that night was different. It wasn’t so much nervousness as excitement to get the opportunity… and maybe my roomy coming home late and turning the lights on. He is forgiven though. Haha.
Feb 13, 2011
My flight was at the same time as the team’s flight back to Florida, so I hopped on the shuttles with them in the morning to head for the airport. Ethan Graham also got the call, so once we arrived at the airport we took our gear and headed our own way.
Traveling on a game day is not exactly ideal, but what can you do? I had some breakfast at Starbucks that would serve as my pregame meal. Once again, not ideal but choices are limited in an airport. We landed in Charlotte at about 11 a.m., got our bags and took a cab right to the hotel. I was looking forward to getting an hour nap in to recharge a bit after the traveling. When we got to the hotel it was just our luck that our room was not ready and would be about half an hour. I remembering thinking to myself, “This may be the ultimate test of mental toughness.”
The room was finally ready at noon and I managed to lay down for a whole 18 minutes before I put on my suit and headed for the rink. So travel all day, eat a weak pre game meal, miss a nap, and play a fourth game in five nights equals perfect conditions to make an AHL debut.
I’ll spare the details of the game, but I played solidly and was happy with my performance. I didn’t feel nervous or tired. At times like that I think adrenaline and instincts just take over. Oh yeah, how could I forget crazy hockey dad booked a flight to Charlotte as soon as he got the news, so he was in attendance.
After the game, we had a “Skate with the Checkers” event, which is ironic since the same event took play after my first AHL game last year in Albany, and I had to go out there and no one knew who the hell I was. It was great to meet the fans and be a part of it this year though. I went back to my hotel that night pretty happy with myself for being able to overcome some obstacles and get the job done at the next level.
Feb 14, 2011
This was a complete day off, which was nice. Grammer and I slept in (much needed), grabbed some lunch and went to a movie. Later that night I went to see a friend on Albany and caught up with him over dinner.
The whole day I kept thinking maybe I should just turn my phone off. They could call me at any time and send me back down. Haha.
I went to bed that night thinking, “Yes! I survived Day 2. Let’s see if I can make it through Day 3 tomorrow.” The old cliché “one day at a time” is the only way you can treat a situation like this.
Feb 15, 2011
This was another game day. I went to the morning skate not knowing if I would even be skating or packing my bags to head back to Florida. My number was on the board, so I got to skate and while I was on the ice the coach came up to me and said one of the injured guys is still out and I would be in the lineup that night. Woohoo another game!! Nice!! I got to go through my normal game day routine, which was also nice. That would be my fifth game in one week. I thought I had another solid effort but we lost the game 3-0. I got to start the game which was pretty cool. After the game we found out we would have another day off on Wednesday. Perfect, I was probably safe for another day.
Feb 16, 2011
It was nice to have another day off today. It just so happened that I got called up during the most grueling and hardest part of Charlotte’s schedule, while back in Florida our schedule just started to ease up. That is fine by me. More hockey? Bring it on.
Today I took some time to get my life in order. We left on Tuesday for Cincinnati and we only took carry-ons, so when I arrived in Charlotte all I had was one suit, one casual outfit and an Everblades track suit and I had already been wearing on the road for five days. I definitely needed to make a trip to the mall and pick up at least a couple items to add to my lacking wardrobe (Don’t wanna be the dirty kid on the team). I didn’t get much because I’m not sure how long I will be here but it will at least keep me going for a few more days. Tomorrow we practice in the morning and the team flies out at 4:30 p.m. for four games in five nights (at Binghamton, Adirondack, Hershey, Syracuse). I’m not sure if I am even going on the trip or not. Hopefully I show up to the rink tomorrow and get good news. I suppose either way I will be packing up to fly somewhere tomorrow whether it’s with the team or back to Florida. Time will tell, one day at a time.
Feb 17, 2011
Found out today that I will be heading up north this afternoon and not back down south. We just had practice this morning and will fly out of Charlotte at 4:30 this afternoon. I have to check out of my hotel room but I have barely any stuff to begin so it is all coming with me.
Feb 18, 2011
Not a great game tonight in Binghamton. We were outplayed and I didn’t have one of my better efforts. I will need to be better tomorrow if I am in the lineup again.
We are now on our way to Glens Falls to play Adirondack tomorrow night. The bus ride is only 2-3 hours so it is not too bad. In other news: The Everblades won tonight and so did my boys at St. Lawrence. Great to see my good friend Sean Flanagan breaking out of his scoring drought lately. Also, good friend Jared Keller scored and had a good game which is awesome to see. He sat out all of last year with concussion problems and a good part of this year, so it is great to see him back out there and doing so well. Way to hang in there J. Kells.
I’d also like to make a quick shout out to all the guys in my graduating class. Being back in New York and only a couple hours from St. Lawrence is getting me thinking about all the great times I had there and all the friends I made, especially the guys from my class. It is great to see all of them doing great things, whether it is with hockey or other stuff. Biggest beauties in the world and I can’t wait to see them all this summer for our annual Can/Am golf tourney.
Feb 19, 2011
I slipped into the lineup for tonight’s game due to a last-minute injury. My parents and brother will be at the game again tonight, and I’m sure my dad and brother are happy they get to see me play another game. My mom was probably hoping I would be a scratch so she could spend more time with me. Ha, sorry mom, duty calls.
I need a better effort tonight for sure, so I’m going to be ready to go to say the least. After the game we will travel five hours to Hershey, Penn. Lastly, I’d like to wish all the seniors at SLU a happy senior night. Enjoy the last little bit of it because it goes fast.
That’s all for this week folks, catch up with y’all next week from....well who knows?!