Last October, Spencer Machacek thought about the coolness factor of his situation.
Sure the fourth-year pro ideally would have liked to secure a roster spot with the Winnipeg Jets and enjoy one of the best home-rink atmospheres in the NHL.
But the consolation prize was pretty good. He would continue his days in the AHL with the new St. John's IceCaps in one of the best minor-league environments at Mile One Centre.
"The crowd support obviously has been awesome in Winnipeg and it's the same in St. John's," said Machacek, promoted to the Jets seven games ago. "Both buildings are sold out for every game. Both barns are loud. The buzz around St. John's has been awesome and we've all enjoyed our time there."
With the Jets playoff picture looking dim, the 23-year-old Machacek will find himself back with St. John's for its playoff run. In the meantime, he has been impressive in his seven-game stint with the Jets.
He scored his first career goal in Washington last Friday when he knocked in a late-game tying goal in a contest the Jets would win in overtime, and has checked in with six points in seven games, including a four-game point streak that was snapped in the Jets' disappointing 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators at home on Monday.
Not bad for a youngster who has 19 games of NHL experience and has averaged six minutes and 41 seconds in his recent stint with the Jets.
After winning a Memorial Cup championship with Milan Lucic and the 2006-07 Vancouver Giants, he took over the captaincy of the team in his final junior season and then registered three consecutive 20-or-more goal seasons in the AHL. He was on his way to a fourth 20-plus goal season with the IceCaps - 17 in 58 games - until the Jets promoted him.
"The NHL is a tough league to work yourself into and there are not too many open spots," Marachek said, when asked what keeps him going in the minors. "You have to wait for your time and hopefully make the best of it. It helps that we've had a good time down in the AHL. We've had a good season down there in St. John's. We're making a push for a Cup and that helps your individual confidence.
"What keeps you going is the dream of making it. You have that dream as a kid. Injuries happen during the year and you have to be at your best or they might call someone else.Inspired by Lucic
The gritty Marachek credits Giants coach Don Hay for his development as a teenager. He also acknowledged the importance of Lucic in his life. The two were roommates with the Giants and remain close friends. They talk often and Lucic has encouraged his former teammate to keep working hard.
Machacek was pleased and inspired after Lucic and the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup last spring.
"We talk a lot," Machacek said. "He gives me good advice. He has encourages me to want more."
Machacek was raised on a wheat farm near Lethbridge, Alta. His father never put pressure on him or his three brothers to work on the farm in the summer. Instead, he encouraged the kids to throw themselves into sports.
Machacek only liked to work on the farm when he was younger so he could occasionally drive the beater car used for getting around the farm.
"My parents gave us every opportunity and I owe a lot to them," said Machacek, whose 20-year-old brother Cason is a defenceman with the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds. "They never pushed us."
Now Spencer is pushing for a full-time spot in the NHL.
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