Growing up, if your grandparents owned a berry farm there is a good chance that you spent plenty of time working there. Well, this is the exact case for Zack MacEwen of the Philadelphia Flyers, as he was growing up on Prince Edward Island in Canada. But it was his time picking strawberries where he attributes learning a lot about the importance of work ethic and also got some advice from his grandfather that still resonates with him, “if you’re going to do something, do it right.”
Zack grew up playing hockey from a young age with his older brother and their friends, often in a rink in their backyard that their father would build for them, and this is also where he began feeling the competitive spirit. He played in minor hockey leagues growing up in PEI, but feels his hockey journey truly started during his time with the Pownal Red Devils. He met some of his best friends during his time there and still goes back in the summers to skate there and to help the current players.
Zack didn’t make it to the NHL in the most traditional way nor did he have the clearest path there. After going undrafted in 2015, he continued progressing and putting in as much work as he could until he was ultimately called up to the Vancouver Canucks in March of 2017. “I remember getting called up, it was a Sunday night before a Monday game and I think I travelled all day to get there, but I was so excited,” says MacEwen. “Being able to play in your first NHL game is an incredibly special experience, but my agent made it even more incredible for me by coordinating it with the team and surprising me by arranging for my mom, dad, uncle, and girlfriend to be in attendance that night. Pairing that with an assist in my first professional hockey appearance, it was an amazing night.”
Zack’s family was always a driving force and a source of motivation for him. Growing up, their support kept him playing and he always wanted to make them proud, especially his father who was a huge hockey fan and just loved the game. He and his father were very close, so it was a devastating blow for him and his family when his father sadly passed away unexpectedly from a stroke in 2020. As he and his family were receiving tons of support and donations from the community, they were overwhelmed with the outpouring of support but wanted to find the best way to put it to use to honor his father. This led to Zack founding My Biggest Fan Foundation, a charity started in his father’s honor dedicated to helping underprivileged children get a chance to play, and continue playing the game he loved so much. “My father was a very giving man. He would always ask me for extra sticks, or shirts, or hats, or any equipment and then go give them to the kids in the neighborhood. He went out of his way to make someone’s day, so it only feels right to continue his legacy,” says MacEwen.
When asked what Zack wants others to take away from his experiences and his story, he says he hopes that they realize that you’re never really counted out. “Even if it doesn’t happen the way that you always thought it would, that doesn’t mean that it won’t. It sounds cheesy, but believing in yourself is truly important. New and unexpected opportunities will present themselves if you keep going, putting in the work, and investing in yourself,” says MacEwen. “I also had this drive to overachieve the expectations that others had for me. I wanted to, and needed to, prove the doubters wrong (myself included at times). I finally made it to a place where I am doing what I love and I want to do it for as long as I can, whatever it takes.”
Check out Zack MacEwen’s full interview to learn more about his story and what drives him.