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Mac's Getting Back on Track at RPI

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 2, 2006

TROY - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey tri-captain Kirk MacDonald gathers around the radio with other injured members of the team - including the other tri-captains - and listens to the injury-riddled team suffer another defeat.

The team plays well but struggles to score goals. Forwards go more than seven periods without a point, nearly 10 periods without a goal.

MacDonald, who's battling back from testicular cancer, knows he could make a difference.

He can only endure, however, as he's endured being told he has cancer, hours of chemotherapy, several surgeries that ravaged his body, and the pain of not being able to play.

Seeing the team struggle, he says, is as hard as any of it has been.

"Very tough," he said. "I want to play and that's what keeps me in the gym every day. I don't like to see anybody struggle, especially teammates. I don't like seeing them lose."

"But I can't be sulking around in front of the guys or that will translate to them," he added. "They're the ones playing, trying to win games. I'm just watching."

The Engineers' Christmas turned out to be an injured list chocked full of standouts, including the team's other tri-captains - Kevin Croxton and Brad Farynuk - three of the top eight scorers - leader Croxton, No. 4 Farynuk and Kevin Broad and the top two defensemen - Farynuk and Alex Valentin.

"Guys going down all the time," MacDonald said. "Crox, Brad, Broader, Yurk (Mark Yurkewecz) was out, then Slovak (Valentin) and Eaves. But guys have to take it as an opportunity and step up. And when we get those guys back, we're going to be a better hockey team."

Rensselaer fans have wondered about the progress of the big right winger, who led the team in scoring last season with 16 goals and 20 assists.

MacDonald notes that he's been skating since early December and began skating hard and carrying puck after the holidays.

"It felt great," he said of wheeling around Houston Field House ice with the puck on his stick.

"I went home (Victoria, B.C.) at Christmas to see the doctors," he said, "and when I got back, I really started to get into it, that's when I got the urge to go full speed ahead and started rebuilding. I'm going hard every day and getting stronger every day."

The amount of weight MacDonald lost through his ordeal wasn't known until he arrived back on campus in November as a skinny rail. He played at about 212 last season.

He's put on about 50 pounds and looks to add 20-25 more.

"I was 132 pounds when I got out of the hospital on Oct. 6," he said, "and now I'm 179 1/2. So, I have about 20 pounds to go. I expect to go about 200 pounds when I get back (to playing). I've got a long time to put on 20 pounds."

And MacDonald says, he's in "pretty darn good shape right now considering everything. When I go on the ice and skate around I feel fine. I don't have the (as quick) first step I had before, but that will come eventually."

MacDonald hopes to be able to join in practice before the season ends.

He admits to having to catch himself every once in a great while, wondering why this had to happen to him, that the team would have more 'W's and fewer 'L's if he could play and what rotten luck he's had.

"Yeah, sometimes we'll sit around, my roommates (Croxton and Farynuk) will say, 'what if you were playing, what if we were playing', what-ifs and too-bads," he said. "But you can't do anything about it. I don't dwell on it, nobody around here dwells on it."

"I'm not playing this year and the guys are doing their best without me," he said. "It's not really one of those things I dwell on. Stuff happens and you just move on with life. I beat it, I'm doing well, so there's no sense in sitting and worrying about it."

MacDonald was asked, other than the shock of hearing the diagnosis for the first time, what was the roughest part of the battle.

"Whew, that's hard," he said. "I don't know. You think the chemotherapy sucked, I thought that was awful. Then you spend 65 days in the hospital and you think that's pretty bad. And what the surgeries were like. None of it was fun, none of it was any worse than the others, it was all bad."

Expecting to be back at midseason, and then having to redshirt the whole year, was equally difficult MacDonald added.

He'll be back, though he vows.

"And score a few goals," a well-wisher said.

"More than a few," he promised.