A former Western Washington University hockey player recently received an opportunity to play with or against the Seattle Kraken.
Robert Macdonald, who played goalie on Western’s hockey team from 2016-2018, is now the emergency backup goalie for Seattle’s new NHL team.
Macdonald is one of two emergency backup goalies for the Kraken, which means if two goalies from the same team get hurt during a game, the emergency backup goalie steps in, Macdonald said.
This means that even if it is the two goalies from the opposing team that get hurt, Macdonald is put in as their goaltender.
For this reason, Macdonald said he chose to be emergency backup goalie for games where he would be happy playing for either team.
Macdonald’s grandfather played semi-professional hockey in Canada, and his father has been coaching hockey since his late 20s said Larry Macdonald, Robert’s father and former coach at Western.
Robert grew up in Colorado where hockey was just being introduced to the area through the arrival of Colorado’s NHL team called the Avalanche.
“When we first lived [in Colorado] there were no rinks in any of the cities, except for a couple in Denver,” Robert said. “By the time we moved out 15 years ago, every city had a rink.”
Larry watched Robert play his whole life. He said Robert and his two brothers have been playing hockey since they were kids.
“The boys have taken it to a level that I never expected,” Larry said. “It's been rewarding for me as a father to watch.”
Mark Macdonald, current captain for the Western hockey team and brother to Robert, recalls growing up competing with his brothers in hockey.
“We’re all very competitive, even playing street hockey, we would switch positions and try to be better than the other at each other's position,” Mark said.
Larry said that his sons’ competitiveness helped them push each other and drive their careers forward.
Another factor that greatly impacted Robert’s playing is his drive to improve his skills, Larry said.
“Robert has always worked on his game himself … He was in a situation where he was always getting better,” Larry said.
Robert played division three hockey for St. Olaf College where he began to grow weary of the sport he had committed to for years.
“It was the first time in my life that hockey felt like a chore; I was exhausted,” Robert said.
Daniel Day, Whatcom Community College athletic director, said athletes playing college sports perform at a very high level. Which, when balanced with college academics, can be a heavy load.
Robert decided to transfer to Western and redirect his focus from hockey, but his mind changed when his dad became coach of the Western hockey team.
“I played for Western because I wanted to play with my dad just for the heck of it,” Robert said. “But it ended up being two of my favorite years of hockey.”
Mark joined Western's hockey team in Robert’s senior year, as a result, the two brothers got to play together once again, with their father as head coach.
After graduating from Western in 2018, Robert switched his primary focus from hockey to work, though he continued to play in a men's league and occasionally coached.
This changed when the Kraken reached out to him a week before tryouts for the backup goalie position.
“It's funny because I had been joking about it with my men's league teams for the last two years,” Robert said. “I got the email the next night that was an official invitation.”
Robert said he’s proud of the achievement.
“I'm happy for my family too,” Robert said. “It's the case for everyone who plays hockey … The amount of money and time [my parents] invested into this sport was astronomical for us to have these dreams and chase them.”
Finlay Morrison is a reporter for The Front and a third-year journalism student. He focuses on local sports and WWU athletics.