A YouTube sensation due to his reputation for engaging in bare-knuckle showdowns, Steve MacIntyre is a nice guy off the ice, a father figure who competes in team roping during the off-season back home in Canada.
Often a healthy scratch, “Big Mac” has been active for only five of his last 34 games with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons, but the 33-year-old tough man’s impact goes beyond the stat sheets.
With only eight games remaining in the regular season, the Barons are four standings points shy of a playoff spot. MacIntyre, a forward, probably won’t play Wednesday night against Hamilton, but he still makes an impact.
“Big Mac is like a dad to us,” team captain Anton Lander said last month before his promotion to Edmonton. “Everyone is comfortable around him. Maybe he’s not the best player on the team, but he’s the strongest. Plus, he knows when he needs to say something to lift everyone.”
The statistic that stands out: In 13 pro seasons, MacIntyre has accumulated 910 penalty minutes in 270 combined games between the AHL and NHL.
“If you ask anybody on this team who you’d like to go to war with, his name would come up every single time,” said defenseman Brad Hunt. “Just having him on the team brings everybody together. He’s such a well-mannered person. He’s so nice to everybody.”
MacIntyre-type enforcers are becoming less important in hockey now that rule changes have minimized physical play.
“They’re getting the game more refined to where it’s a faster-paced game,” said coach Todd Nelson. “Big Mac is kind of in a class by himself. If you’re playing a really tough team, he’s the type of player you need in there to help keep the peace.”
MacIntyre was asked if he’s concerned young players that rely on physicality like he has over the year might become extinct.
“The 13 years I’ve been doing this, it’s gone from clutching and grabbing to where it is now,” MacIntyre said. “I don’t know if they can get the game any faster, but that’s the way they’re thinking. They want more goals.”
MacIntyre never slowed down as a kid. His family raised black Angus cows on a ranch in Brock, Saskatchewan, 350 miles north of Montana’s border with Canada. He said he won’t have problems finding ways to occupy his time after he retires.
“Growing up, I’d have a hockey stick in my hands in the winter time and a rope in my hands every summer,” MacIntyre said. “I’d roped anything. Cats. Dogs. Cows. My little sister. I once broke my brother’s wrist roping him.”
MacIntyre has experienced some success in competition off the ice. Last summer, MacIntyre and his partner finished third in team roping at a rodeo.
“I’m the header. I’m a terrible heeler,” MacIntyre said. “But it’s something I absolutely love to do. It’s my passion. It’s like golf. You can golf whether you’re young or old. It’s the same thing with roping.”
MacIntyre is uncertain about his future. His focus is to help the Barons reach the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
“Steve is a character guy, a guy who wants to play,” Nelson said. “It’s tough when he’s sitting out, but he always remains with a positive attitude. He brings a lot of life to practice and our locker room.”
MacIntyre said it’s flattering that teammates and coaches compliment him on providing a positive vibe despite often being a healthy scratch.
“It’s kind of cool when younger players come up and ask you questions,” MacIntyre said. “Because I’ve been there and done that I try to pass along the best advice I can.”
Regardless how his career plays out, he’ll never take his13 seasons in pro hockey for granted.
“A lot of people said I wouldn’t even been able to play junior hockey,” MacIntyre said. “Then a lot of people said I wouldn’t go pro. Once I turned pro, they said I wouldn’t make it very far, but I played 97 games in the NHL. I’d like to think I’ve proven people wrong.”