CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Andrew MacNeill will hit a milestone Saturday afternoon.
The Charlottetown Islanders equipment manager, affectionately known as Spider, will work his 1,000th Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game with same team he served for the first 999.
“Being from the Charlottetown area and basically growing up just down the street from here, it means a lot, doing what I love to do in my own hometown,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “I don't even really call it a job, it’s what I love to do.”
That love began as the youngster started attending AHL games when the P.E.I. Senators called the Civic Centre home.
“It started out early in ’93 with the P.E.I. Senators, going to the games and watching the equipment managers and getting obsessed by the way dressing rooms are set up,” he said.
He received an opportunity to help out with the Charlottetown Abbies and has been a mainstay around the rink ever since.
Spider has been one of the constants since major junior hockey came to Charlottetown.
“He’s one of the most selfless individuals I’ve ever met,” head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said. “You talk about always wanting team-first guys when you talk about players. To me, Spider epitomizes that. It’s all about the Islanders and always has been.”
Spider is a friendly guy who the players appreciate for all the support he provides them. Many former players have called him the heart and soul of the organization.
“He does so many things behind the scenes that people don't even realize,” said fourth-year forward Keith Getson, who is now the team’s elder statesman. “He stays at the rink hours upon hours after we do. The stuff he does definitely doesn't go unnoticed to people on this team. We really enjoy him.”
Friendships remain 15 years later. Spider is regularly getting updates on former players and staff.
And when Islanders athletic therapist Kevin Elliott returned home from Buffalo earlier this month after winning world junior gold with Team Canada, who was the person waiting with Elliott’s wife at the airport for him: Spider.
“It means a lot,” Elliott said that morning, reflecting back on a 15-year friendship.
MacNeill started as an assistant to Elliott and learned the ropes from him. Spider, in turn, has done the same for other people looking to get involved.
“Spider has been just about everything for my career,” said Tyler Jay, Islanders assistant equipment manager. “I came in as a nobody when I was in high school, and he taught me the ropes from Day 1, him and Kevin.”
Elliott celebrated his 1,000th game last year, and this weekend MacNeill joins the club.
“It’s unbelievable to see guys like Spide and Kev get recognized for time like that in this league,” Getson said. “One thousand games is an unbelievable accomplishment.”
The Islanders will honour him before Saturday’s game with an on-ice ceremony.
“He’s not a guy that looks for the spotlight, but I think he should enjoy every single second of it,” Jay said. “He deserves every bit of it.”
Andrew (Spider) MacNeill’s first game in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was the first for P.E.I.’s franchise.
The P.E.I. Rocket played the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles on Sept. 12, 2003, in Sydney, N.S.
The Rocket won 4-0 behind a 23-save shutout by Sébastien Nolet.
Jimmy Bonneau scored the first goal in franchise history while Pierre-André Bureau and Dominic Soucy each had a goal and an assist. Tyler Noye also scored the team’s first power-play goal during the contest.
Fabian Laniel had two assists while Jonathan Persson added one.
The game was scoreless after the first period while the visiting Rocket took a 1-0 lead to the third period.
The Charlottetown Islanders will honour Andrew (Spider) MacNeill during Saturday’s 3 p.m. game with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagle at the Eastlink Centre.
“You hope the building is packed and you hope the team is on fire to honour a guy that you can’t even put into words what he means to the team and the franchise,” said head coach and general manager Jim Hulton.