A pro’s jour­ney to the Hall

The Glengarry News - - Sports In The Glens - Files from the Glen­garry Sports Hall of Fame and Mary Le­duc

There are many great hockey play­ers na­tive to Glen­garry, but those whose tal­ents have earned them a spot on a NHL, AHL, OHL, Cana­dian Ju­nior and Euro­pean Elite team ros­ters are de­serv­ing of spe­cial recog­ni­tion. Such is the hockey jour­ney of Wil­liamstown’s Kent McDonell who will be in­ducted into the Glen­garry Sports Hall of Fame next month.

Kent, born in 1979, is one of six chil­dren of Bruce and Linda McDonell. No­tably, he is the great grand­son of Dr. Alexan­der Tup­per McDonell, an in­ductee into the Hall of Fame in 1983 who was rec­og­nized for his foot­ball and lacrosse achieve­ments. Kent was an­other Wil­liamstown res­i­dent who grew up on the banks of the Raisin River and learned to skate on it in the win­ter and fish on it in the sum­mer. Kent played as many sports as pos­si­ble within the Char-Lan sports com­mu­nity but hockey quickly emerged as his pas­sion. With three older broth­ers in Char-Lan mi­nor hockey, there were al­ways a pair of hand-me-down skates avail­able. Kent was an en­thu­si­as­tic mem­ber of the Char-Lan Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion from novice through to ban­tam mi­nor. Dur­ing these mi­nor hockey years, his fa­ther was a vol­un­teer coach with the as­so­ci­a­tion and en­joyed the unique op­por­tu­nity to coach his son. Bruce is quick to share that hockey mat­ters re­mained at the rink and were not brought home for fur­ther dis­cus­sion. Kent’s fa­ther re­calls that his son was very much a re­spect­ful com­peti­tor who would hold back his game if the CharLan team was ahead by a num­ber of goals but if the team was los­ing, “then look out be­cause Kent turned on the jets!” Not un­like many young­sters in the Char-Lan com­mu­nity, Kent set his goal to one day play for the Jr. B Rebels. As a young fan dur­ing the win­ter months he never missed a Rebels’ game. His fa­ther re­calls that Kent would par­tic­i­pate in the dif­fer­ent hockey skill com­pe­ti­tions that the Rebels’ of­fered dur­ing game in­ter­mis­sions. The win­ner of these com­pe­ti­tions would re­ceive a free hockey stick and Kent never missed an op­por­tu­nity to go on the ice and try his luck. As luck, or more likely skill, had it, Kent re­put­edly won enough sticks to keep him play­ing the game for a few years. Such a fan was Kent that he made a point to high-five the play­ers as they came off the ice. How ironic that a few years later, hockey fans would be lin­ing up to give Kent a high-five when he ex­ited the ice af­ter one of his games as a pro­fes­sional player.

Play­ing through the lev­els of Char-Lan mi­nor hockey, Kent re­mem­bers the away tour­na­ments and al­ways felt a great sense of pride and sat­is­fac­tion when his hockey team made up of small town and farm kids en­tered the big city and state-side tour­na­ments and came home vic­tors. Kent cred­its much of his early suc­cess be­cause he played along­side many good hockey play­ers from the Wil­liamstown area.

Kent joined the Ju­nior B Rebels at just 15 years of age play­ing the 199394 sea­son. The fol­low­ing year, in­stead of fol­low­ing up on the op­por­tu­nity to re­port to the Hawkes­bury Hawks train­ing camp, Al Wa­gar coach of the Corn­wall Colts, picked him up to play in their 1995-96 sea­son. That sea­son Kent play­ing the right-wing po­si­tion col­lected 33 points in 35 games. The Corn­wall Colts ad­vanced to the Fred Page Cup fi­nal, los­ing in the fi­nal game to Dart­mouth.

Kent is a lo­cal ex­am­ple of a young man who left home at an early age to pur­sue his chances of a pro hockey ca­reer. There were univer­sity hockey schol­ar­ships of­fered to Kent, how­ever he chose to en­ter the Ju­nior A draft and went in the 2nd round to Guelph Storm in 1996. Kent was just 17 years old when he left home to be bil­leted in Guelph and com­plete his high school there while play­ing with the Storm. In his sec­ond year play­ing with the Storm, the team ad­vanced to the Me­mo­rial Cup only to lose in the fi­nal game to Port­land in over­time. Kent ex­pe­ri­enced great suc­cess while play­ing in Guelph. He cap­tained the team in 1999. That same year he was named the team MVP and se­lected to the OHL First Team All-star ros­ter. In­clud­ing play­offs, Kent played 287 games and ac­cu­mu­lated 227 points that speaks to his stel­lar play while in the OHL. Without a doubt, Kent’s proud­est hockey mo­ment oc­curred when he was se­lected to rep­re­sent Canada at the World U20 Juniors in 1999. The try-out camp was held in Kenora. Canada hosted the World Juniors’ tour­na­ment in Win­nipeg and Tom Ren­ney served as Cana­dian coach. Kent fin­ished with a plus 2 rat­ing, in­clud­ing a goal and an as­sist in his 7 games played. The team ad­vanced to the fi­nals los­ing in a heart­break­ing loss to Rus­sia in over­time. To this day, Kent feels tremen­dous pride and says that there are no words to ac­cu­rately de­scribe his emo­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences when he played wear­ing the maple leaf on his jer­sey.

Kent was drafted by the Carolina Hur­ri­canes in 1997 and re­turned to the draft again in 1999, this time drafted by the Detroit Red Wings. He signed his first pro­fes­sional con­tract in 2000. He made short stops play­ing in the East Coast League be­fore he signed with the Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets and played with their af­fil­i­ate in the Amer­i­can Hockey League in Syra­cuse. He was called up to play with the Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets and tal­lied 3 points in 32 games. 2004-05 was the in­fa­mous NHL lock­out year and Kent made the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to leave and play in Europe. Here be­gan an il­lus­tri­ous ten-year jour­ney play­ing on di­vi­sion 1 teams in Nor­way, Germany and Finland, but the ma­jor­ity of these ful­fill­ing years were spent play­ing in the Swedish Hockey League.

Kent re­tired from pro­fes­sional hockey in 2017 and he re­turned from Europe to es­tab­lish his home in Cale­don Hills with his wife Julie and daugh­ter Lo­gan. Along with other busi­ness in­ter­ests, Kent runs Prospect Hockey, a hockey school where he fo­cuses on de­vel­op­ing the as­pects of the game that served him well dur­ing his years of play, specif­i­cally the im­por­tance of strong com­mu­ni­ca­tion, team ef­fort and in­di­vid­ual work ethic. When asked what Kent thought char­ac­ter­ized his style of play, he re­flected that he was al­ways rec­og­nized for his strong work ethic and lead­er­ship on and off the ice. In all the years that he played hockey, he al­most al­ways was se­lected to wear a let­ter on his jer­sey.

Al­though the dis­tances Kent trav­elled to play hockey were great, he al­ways re­mained closely con­nected to his par­ents and he would call home af­ter ev­ery game played. Kent gives back to his Wil­liamstown com­mu­nity when he is able. His Team Canada pic­ture hangs in the Char-Lan Re­cre­ation Cen­tre and serves as an in­spi­ra­tion to young play­ers. On oc­ca­sion, he has worn his Team Canada jer­sey and skated with lo­cal mi­nor hockey play­ers and he has vis­ited his sis­ter Car­rie’s school in Corn­wall to speak with stu­dents. Kent still calls the banks of the Raisin River and Wil­liamstown home and re­turns fre­quently to visit fam­ily and friends. For cer­tain, Kent will be re­turn­ing to Wil­liamstown on Au­gust 21 to be de­servedly in­ducted into the Glen­garry Sports Hall of Fame.

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