To call it a ‘bad break’ seems so cliché, yet so accurate at the same time.
The injury couldn’t have come at a worse moment; just a few minutes away from embarking on arguably the biggest two weeks of his young career, his first
foray into international hockey.
Jack McBain had played his way to an invite to Canada’s national under-17 development camp last August, and performed well enough in Calgary against 110 of
his peers to earn one of 66 national team roster spots for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in early November.
But he didn’t quite make it to northern Ontario unscathed. On Oct. 23, the night before he was to fly to the U17 tournament to join up with Canada Black,
McBain suited up for his Toronto Jr. Canadiens one last time.
“I blocked a shot, and I hurt my hand,” the 16-year-old says. “When I got out [to Sault Ste. Marie] I practiced the week with the guys and played the
exhibition game. [My hand] was gradually getting worse; after the games I would feel a lot more pain.”
He played in the tournament opener, going pointless in a 4-1 loss to Canada White, before the pain got to be too much. He was told by the team doctor to
get x-rays, which confirmed the worst.
“They found out it was broken, so [the doctor] shut me down.”
Just like that, McBain – the son of 11-year NHLer and Team Canada alumnus Andrew McBain – was done; he was on a plane back to Toronto the next day, and
could do nothing but watch from the sidelines as his teammates continued their World Under-17 Hockey Challenge run.
In the end, Canada Black won its way to the gold medal game, losing a 2-1 nailbiter to Sweden, and McBain could do nothing but watch – a pain that might
have been worse than the broken hand.
“It was brutal,” he says. “Such a great group of guys and such a great experience. I knew they were going to go really far, and they had a good chance at
winning, so it was pretty tough.
“I could barely watch the shootout in the semifinals (a 3-2 win over Russia). I was happy for the guys, they did so well and I wanted nothing but the best
for them, but at the same time I really wanted to be there and do everything I could to help the team.”
It didn’t take long, though, for a new opportunity to present itself.
Just over two weeks after the U17 tournament, still out of the Jr. Canadiens’ line-up waiting for his hand to heal, McBain was invited to the Canada East
selection camp ahead of the 2016 World Junior A Challenge, giving him a second shot at Team Canada.
“You never know how many times you’re going to be able to wear the jersey, so you just have to take advantage of every chance you get,” he says. “I got
that phone call, and I was really happy. It was a bitter taste left in my mouth after U17s, so this was another opportunity and I wanted to take advantage
McBain did exactly that, making the Canada East roster as one of two 2000-born players. (The other, goaltender Hunter Jones, was a U17 teammate of McBain
with Canada Black in Sault Ste. Marie.)
“It’s the way he plays the game,” Canada East head coach Jason Clarke says of why McBain made the team. “He plays the game an honest way. As a 16-year-old
kid, the way he plays the game is so mature; he’s beyond his years. He stood out every shift, and made a difference every shift when he was at the camp.”
He got into two Ontario Junior Hockey League games with Toronto before leaving for camp, putting up a goal and two assists, but still had to shake the rust
of inactivity while also trying to make Team Canada.
“I went right to [selection] camp and played a few games there, so I’m starting to get back into it a lot better, and catch up with the speed of the game,”
McBain says. “It’s just about trying to get better every game.
“I just need to play my game. I’m a big power forward who can create offence and play well in the defensive zone. Just an all-around game, and try to help
my team win. We’re the same as all of the other teams – the gold medal is the ultimate goal.”
Gold would give the younger McBain bragging rights over his dad, who helped Canada to a silver medal at the 1989 IIHF World Championship; Andrew McBain had
eight points in 10 games as part of a roster that included names likes Yzerman, Hawerchuk, Messier, Stevens and Fuhr.
Andrew was a few years into retirement when Jack was born and was hands-on with his son’s minor hockey, serving as a coach right through his Minor Midget
year with the Don Mills Flyers last season.
“He’s kind of my go-to,” McBain says of his father. “He has been with me the whole time; through minor hockey he was my coach, and to have him there for
every situation … he has been through it all, so his advice and how to act on and off the ice has been unbelievable. I’m very fortunate to have him