Going the Distance

Aiden MacIntosh has made a career out of going the distance. The skilled two-way forward has faced his share of adversity throughout his journey in the game. The Moncton, New Brunswick product never lost sight of what it takes to accomplish his dreams or where the game could take him. Through all the ups and downs MacIntosh never let the tough times define him or his path in the game. The road less travelled is often the most rewarding in the end. Aiden MacIntosh’s unconventional path has only deepened his love and passion for the game.

Road to the Q

The QMJHL is the dream league for so many young aspiring players from this region. To get drafted and play in the Q means so much to the players and their families. It seems like an eternity ago now, but Aiden MacIntosh remembers it like it was yesterday.  

“I had a really good year with the Flyers, losing in the Atlantic finals to Cape Breton West. That year with the Flyers really helped me showcase myself to Q scouts and was lucky to get picked in the 4th round by Saint John.”

The rebuilding Sea Dogs were trying to fill the cupboards with young talented players. During that time, it was baptism by fire for many Sea Dog prospects.

“I loved my experience there, I had a limited role, but always tried to battle to get in the lineup to try to contribute to our team winning,” MacIntosh said.

For many young players it’s about finding their niche at the next level. MacIntosh was reassigned to the now defunct St. Stephen Aces of the Maritime Hockey League at 16 years old.

“The MHL allowed me a chance to play at 16 and get my feet wet in junior, which was an unreal experience in a great hockey town in St Stephen.

“That experience helped me grow and mature really quickly. Being away from home and on your own in Grade 11, you’re really fending for yourself.” MacIntosh made his QMJHL debut on snowy night in Bathurst in 2017-2018. He would eventually join the Sea Dogs full time at the midway point of that season. The dream to play in the QMJHL and secure his role as a regular in that league had finally come true.

The Grind and Finding Your Way

Players are told to embrace the grind of junior hockey at every turn. Aiden MacIntosh had 29 games of Q experience under his belt coming into what he hoped to be breakout sophomore season with the Dogs. That wasn’t the case.

The influx of players and the constant turnover in the Port City made it extremely difficult for any player to gain traction. The search for consistency is extremely difficult when you’re trying to find your way in a new league. MacIntosh was given a limited bottom six role and only 48 games to prove he could contribute at that level. There’s embracing the grind, earning your time on ice and then there’s opportunity or lack thereof.

“I was put in a defensive/pk role and only appearing in 2/3 of the games. Being a healthy scratch was really tough mentally,” confessed MacIntosh. At the beginning of the 2019-2020 season after a brilliant off season of training working with Pro Evolution Hockey, MacIntosh was ready to make a larger contribution and be part of a solid core group of young players. Unfortunately, he was never really given the opportunity to do that.

“Halfway through my 18-year-old season, I realized, I needed to be playing Jr A to be in the lineup all of the time and getting experience in all situations while developing as much as I could to get to the next level.”

The decision to leave the QMJHL was difficult, but one of necessity.

The Unimaginable

Aiden MacIntosh would have to find his way in the MHL.

“The Maritime Hockey League was great for me,” stressed MacIntosh.

“In my opinion it’s an underrated league.”

“There are so many players that have major junior abilities, but things just never worked out for them.”

“When I came back to the league from Saint John had something to prove to myself. I knew I could produce and be a factor every night at the junior level,” MacIntosh said.

MacIntosh would suit up for the Fredericton Red Wings before being traded to the Amherst Ramblers.

“I was able to produce in Freddy and Amherst my second half 18- and 19-year-old years.”

“I loved every minute in Amherst, the fans and everyone involved with the team are great people and made it an unreal spot to be.”

“We had a great year last year and I think we would’ve done some damage in playoffs if things didn’t get canceled due to COVID.”

MacIntosh appeared in 24 games for the Ramblers recording 30 points a season ago, but his journey in the game almost ended forever on March 7, 2021. The Ramblers were playing their arch-rivals the Truro Bearcats at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre in Truro. MacIntosh like he did a million times before was killing a penalty five minutes into the first period. After Ramblers netminder Tyler Caseley made a save, the puck came to him and that’s when the unimaginable happened. Bearcats’ defenceman Andre DeGagne tried to lift MacIntosh’s stick on the clearing attempt but missed.

DeGagne’s stick went under MacIntosh’s shield and struck him in the left eye.

Everything stopped in that moment.  

“That was a life changing injury, you never expect.”

“It was the darkest point in my life.”

“To be honest, I had little expectation of ever coming back to the game.”

The road to recovery was very slow and painful. The shock of the injury and the unknown filled his mind.

Through it all, MacIntosh never lost hope, but things weren’t trending in the right direction. It was a slow process. When you’re accustomed to things happening at warp speed the healing process was at a snail’s pace.

“I was cleared to start easing back into light workouts two months after the injury.” PEH summer training sessions took on an entirely different meaning to MacIntosh. He returned to the ice at the end of June under the watchful eye of longtime pro Derek Cormier.

“Aiden’s work ethic has always been top notch, he has always been extremely disciplined in his work ethic both on and off the ice,” Cormier said.
“Last year after his eye injury, he continued to push and keep a positive work ethic, not letting it slow him down It’s great to see him having success and committing to play at York University next year. Aiden’s work ethic and the way he enjoys the game is a great quality,” stressed Cormier.

One stride at a time, one drill at a time. Everything seemed new, but comfortable. The hope of returning to playing the game seemed possible, but there was still some apprehension. Could he come all the way back, could MacIntosh play at the same level even though he was legally blind in his left eye. His confidence soared with each ice time.

WELLINGTON, ON – OCTOBER 15: Aiden McIntosh #71 of the Trenton Golden Hawks tries to keep the puck from Emmet Pierce #5 of the Wellington Dukes at the Wellington and District Community Centre on October 15, 2021 in Ontario, Canada (Photo by Ed McPherson / OJHL Images)

“Being able to play the game I’ve always loved and keep coming to the rink with my best friends every day is still the greatest feeling ever.”

Things seemed like they were all falling into place, but the proud Monctonian was looking for a change. “I needed to get a little change of scenery and a fresh start after my injury,” confessed MacIntosh.

“We had three guys come to our team from Trenton last year in Amherst and they raved about how good their program was there.”

“I was very interested in coming back and finishing my Jr career at the highest level possible to really challenge myself.”

“In the “OJ” everyone wears full cages and I wanted to get exposed to the OUA schools up close in this league.”

In 25 games this season with the Trenton Golden Hawks, MacIntosh as 12 goals and 10 assists and 22 PIM’s. A change of scenery, a new chapter, but his time in the MHL will never be forgotten.

“I love all the boys in Amherst, I’m forever grateful for that time of my life.”

MacIntosh’s style of play didn’t go unnoticed. The York University Lion’s of the OUA approached MacIntosh with an offer he couldn’t refuse. “I’m beyond excited to have the opportunity to play for at the university level for the Lion’s.”  

Aiden MacIntosh’s relentless pursuit of his dreams and unconventional path to it is inspirational to say the least. The support from his family and friends has always lifted him up, especially during his darkest times.

“My family has meant everything to me in my journey.”

“Their endless support has provide me with every opportunity.”

“From always watching on HockeyTV and whenever they can come watch me play live is always special. Can’t thank my billet families enough; The Brittain’s , The Malloy’s and The Amodeo’s they all brought me in and treated me like their own, I’ll always be extremely grateful for them.”

MacIntosh will be studying kinesiology at York and is hopeful that his journey in the game will continue beyond school. “I’m looking to develop a lot over the next few years and get an opportunity to play pro hockey before settling into my future career.”

With adversity comes opportunity. Aiden MacIntosh has never feared the distance between his dreams and reality.

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