He’s one year removed from hoisting the Stanley Cup and celebrating hockey’s biggest prize.
As the videos and images of smiles, hugs and tears shared by the Las Vegas Golden Knights and their families make the rounds on sports channels and in media coverage of their Stanley Cup victory, memories of Cale Makar’s triumph alongside his Colorado Avalanche teammates remain fresh.
The defenceman was an integral part of the success of the Avs last year and he has the Conn Smythe Trophy – awarded to the most valuable player in the National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs – to prove it.
A first-round exit from the 2023 NHL postseason put an end to Colorado’s back-to-back championship bid, but the Calgarian was reminded recently of a mantra made famous by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.
“There’s no place like home.”
Makar was named the Scott-Mamini Memorial Award winner as the Calgary Booster Club’s male athlete of the year in March.
For someone with a well-stocked trophy case, the honour may not seem like a big deal. As mentioned, the former first-round draft pick has his name on the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy. He also won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie and was named the James Norris Memorial Trophy winner as the league’s best defenseman.
In addition, Makar claimed numerous accolades as a member of the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championships, and was named the Hobey Baker Award winner for his outstanding play in college with the University of Massachusetts Minutemen.
There will likely be many more medals and trophies that come Makar’s way during his hockey career.
That said, Makar’s mother, Laura MacGregor, insists the nod from the Calgary Booster Club is a significant honour for her son and the entire family.
“It’s unbelievable … we’re Calgarians through and through, and to be honoured by your own city and the Calgary Booster Club is phenomenal. This is just really mind-blowing,” said MacGregor, who spoke on Cale’s behalf at press conference announcing the award winners.
“We love Calgary, we love our community that we live in. I’ve never wanted to move anywhere else.”
MacGregor also spoke highly of the athletic community in the Calgary, noting that she and her husband Gary bonded through sports.
“What else brings people together and bonds you more than sports do? It’s important for a community and it’s important for a city to have sports and to have kids involved in sport. All the things you learn from sports, like working with other people, being a good teammate, all those life lessons and stuff, so I think it’s really important and Calgary is a great base for that,” she said.
In Cale’s case, his parents noticed a love of hockey early on.
“The minute he picked up a mini stick, he was just over one year old, and he was shooting a Nerf ball over my head within a minute,” recalled MacGregor.
“We knew he was going to end up playing hockey … not at the NHL level, for sure, but we were going to be registering him in hockey.”
MacGregor said hockey organizations in Calgary ultimately cleared a path for him to take his game to the next level.
“I think opportunities to be able to play the sport, and he played in community to start off with and then in quadrant and then went on to play in the AJHL. I think just having that opportunity and having a city that really is pro sports and involved in sports. I think it’s important. That shaped his life,” she said.
The Calgary Booster Club, noted MacGregor, is a part of the sports tapestry that helps support athletes and athletics in southern Alberta.
“I think most people wouldn’t participate in sport or volunteer in sport for that recognition,” she said of the organization’s annual awards and scholarships.
“But to be able to have that and to have cheerleaders for you and the support around the sport. That’s what Calgary’s all about.”
That support was also evident when her son brought hockey’s Holy Grail home for a day of celebrations.
“It meant everything,” said MacGregor.
“To be able to share that with Calgary and bring the Cup back so that everybody could see it … he went to the Crowchild arena, his home arena, for hours stood there and took pictures with people. That’s what it’s all about, bringing it back home and being able to share that with everybody else and everybody who supported you.”
Cale Makar’s day with the Stanley Cup