A WHL rookie last season, Spencer Machacek (pronounced Mah-ha-chick) played with Brooks Bandits in the Tier 2 AJHL in 2004-05. Proving that a lot can happen in one year, the native of Lethbridge, Alberta found himself playing right wing with NHL-caliber Gilbert Brule (CLB) in the MasterCard Memorial Cup by the end of the 2005-06 season.
“Spencer’s been a big surprise for hockey club,” Vancouver Giants’ Head Coach Don Hay told Hockey’s Future. “He came in as a kind of an unknown type of player, but he’s really brought a great work ethic and his biggest strength is his skating ability, but he’s also a really gritty competitor.”
As a rookie Machacek scored 23 goals and 22 assists as well as being a +14, and in the WHL playoffs he potted six goals and chipped in with eight assists as well a +9 rating.
“He really gets involved around the puck and he’s got the skill to get into the open and make things happen with his speed. I think he’s going to be a really quality player,” said Hay.
When asked about his decision to pair Machacek up with Brule upon the latter’s return from Columbus, Hay found the decision a fairly easy one.
“I wanted somebody who could keep up to Brule as far as his skating ability and somebody who could make plays, and Spencer can do those things,” said Hay of Machacek, who was co-winner of the Giants’ Rookie of the Year honor.
Through five Memorial Cup games Machacek had two assists, and in the team’s only win of the round robin against the Peterborough Petes, the 6’1, 172 lbs 17-year-old winger had an assist and was named the game’s second star.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Machacek the day before the Giants were eliminated from the Memorial Cup.
HF: How’d you find the jump from AJHL up to WHL this year?
SM: I felt that the guys were a lot bigger and stronger and the speed is a lot quicker. You’ve got to think before you pass or before you can, you know, skate a little bit and then pass it, you’ve got to know where you’re passing it before you even get the puck in this league. The guys are a lot faster and everybody is way more determined to go further in their hockey careers.
HF: How do you feel you fit in then in this league?
SM: You know it helped as far as the leadership group. Fisty [Mark Fistric] and those guys just welcomed us with open arms and it felt like you were sort of a big family. That was the easiest thing for me to come in here and I just wanted to play my game. I was kind of nervous at the start of the season and the guys just helped me through it. They’re great guys.
HF: When Brule came back to the Giants did you start playing with him immediately?
SM: It was like two games or three games by the time he was back [before I played on a line with him]. It was January, February before we started playing [together]. That’s really [been] a benefit for me for sure. He sees the ice so well and every time I’m on with him I have my stick on the ice because he might find me, I don’t know (laughing). It’s definitely benefited me the most [playing with him].
HF: What’s Brule talked to you off the ice or what’s he taught you from his experience?
SM: In practice and even off the ice I ask him about the NHL and how it was and he says he really matured and he’s become a really good leader. You know, he helps everybody out here and he talks a lot in the dressing room and he’s a good leader and helps everybody in practice. With a guy like that who’s been to the NHL you have to listen to him.
HF: What have you improved on personally this year?
SM: I think that my strength around the corners and protecting the puck. In Don’s practices we’ve done a lot of protecting the puck and that and I think I’ve benefited the most from that and over the summer I’m going to work hard to get more strength and get a better balance.
HF: I noticed in one of the games here at the Memorial Cup Brule was being hassled and you got right in there. Is that the type of chemistry you guys have developed where you’ll step up for anyone on your team?
SM: Yeah, exactly, that’s our team. If someone’s going down, especially a key guy like Brule, everybody will step in there and that’s why we’ve gone so far and we’re one big group (smiling). I’ve done that a couple times this year for a couple of guys, so whenever a guy is on a star player like that is getting hassled you’ve got to get in there.
HF: What was it like being a game star in a Memorial Cup game?
SM: It was definitely exciting. When I saw after Michal [Repik] got one after our first game, the trophy and that (Esquire) watch I kind of wanted one of those so I just battled hard and that’s definitely going to be [a nice reminder].
HF: If you were going to sum yourself up, what would you say you are as a player?
SM: Gritty guy, two-way player. A grinder who goes to the net and gets some greasy goals (laughing).
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.