John McLean set himself up for success as a pro hockey player two years ago when he took advantage of an opportunity to play with the Pensacola Ice Flyers straight out of college.
The towering 6-foot-9-inch goaltender out of Gustavus Adolphus in Minnesota signed for three games late in the season and got a taste of what life at the next level was like. He finished the stint with a 2-0 record and a 3.54 goals against average.
“One of the best things I did was come down here after college and play a few games,” McLean said after practice last Wednesday at the Bay Center in Pensacola. “I was kind of a deer in the headlights at the time but if I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t have been prepared for last season. The experience showed me just how big of a jump it was and what I had to do to be ready for the next season.”
It paid off last year as McLean went 19-10 with a 2.39 GAA and helped the Ice Flyers skate to their third Southern Professional Hockey League championship in the last four years.
McLean hasn’t had a chance to get on the ice much this year, playing in just one game while battling injuries. He was placed on the 14-day injured reserve list in October but is feeling healthy again and poised to make an impact.
“Nothing is guaranteed in hockey. You have to take every day as a gift and take advantage of it,” McLean said. “Injuries are part of the game. Everyone goes through them. You just have to control what you can, and for me, that’s getting myself prepared to play again.”
First-year head coach Kevin Hasselberg has no doubt McLean will make a difference once he’s back between the pipes.
“John is an inspirational player and has won over the hearts of the fans wherever he has gone,” Hasselberg said. “We’re excited to have him back in the fold.”
Read more in the Nov. 17 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.