If you paid close attention to the Boston College men’s hockey jerseys last year, you’d have noticed that right before playoff season, then-junior Jack McBain started sporting an ‘A’ on his sweater, adding him to the list of men’s hockey leadership players that have cemented their names in BC hockey history.
Last season, McBain was tied for third in scoring on the team. He scored 19 points in a shortened 24-game season, always making his presence known on the ice whether it was by scoring goals or playing physical defense. This year, he’s leading the Eagles in scoring with 11 points in just six games so far, centering the top line.
We sat down with Jack this week ahead of the UVM series to talk about BC, receiving the ‘A’ during last season, Ice Jam, and what his favorite meals at BC are.
It’s probably been a couple of years since you committed to BC, but I’m curious — being Canadian, going the major junior route is super common. What made you choose to go the college hockey route?
Yeah, obviously growing up in Toronto everybody mostly would go the major junior route whether it’s the OHL or the Q — that’s kind of where all my buddies decided to go. I ended up getting drafted by [the] Barrie [Colts] in the OHL and had the opportunity to go down there and see what it was all about; they’re a great organization and all, but during that draft year I also had the opportunity to go down to places like Michigan which was pretty close to home and watch some college hockey games. The atmosphere is just pretty unique playing in front of your peers and I thought ultimately playing in a league against bigger, older, and stronger guys would be beneficial in the long run and so I decided to go the college route and never looked back. I’ve enjoyed it — no regrets here [laughs].
And following up on that, why did you choose BC?
Boston is an unbelievable city obviously, and just from a hockey standpoint Coach York has done incredible things developing NHL players and he was a big part of the decision. The school itself is great too, you can get a great education here and I thought “why not take advantage of an unbelievable hockey program and a great school at the same time?”
Before BC, you were drafted by the Minnesota Wild — what is it like being one of three Wild picks on the BC roster? Does it give you guys a bit of an extra bond at all?
Yeah it’s cool, it’s unique because we’re all going through a similar situation. Obviously we’re trying to do everything we can to help the BC team, but it’s fun knowing that you and your peers have similar goals to eventually end up playing at a higher level down the road. It’s definitely cool because there’s camps in the summers that we get to go to and stuff like that, it’s a cool experience to go through with a couple of my good friends here.
There’s always a likelihood of players signing NHL contracts after their junior year — how did you make the decision to return to BC for your senior year?
Yeah, I thought about it and it was a little bit of a difficult decision but I kind of always knew I wanted to come back. Being at BC is a unique experience and you only get a certain amount of time. I didn’t really feel that there was a rush to leave at any time. I kind of always knew in my heart I wanted to come back and I’m really glad that I did, just because of what a special place it is, and college hockey is still a great place to develop and a great place to play. I love it, and I’m happy with my decision.
Last season, you were added to the leadership group as an assistant captain and you’re wearing the ‘A’ this season too. Can you talk a little bit about what that means to you?
It’s really special, having the opportunity last year as a junior and having it carry forward into this year. I was very honored and I think Marc McLaughlin has done a great job wearing the ‘C’ — he’s a great leader both on and off the ice, and he’s been great for our team and our program, leading by example. To be with him and Patrick Giles is great, they’re two really great guys. I was honored and I just try to do anything that I can.
Coming off of a loss in the NCAA regionals last season, can you talk about what the mentality of the team was entering this season?
Yeah that was really tough for our team, we really felt like we had a team that could go all the way last year, and we lost some pretty key guys like Boldy, Newhook, Hardman, Knighter [Spencer Knight], Karow on the back end there, and Hutsko. But just coming off of that loss we brought in a bunch of grad transfers and freshmen — I think we got ten new players — and everybody’s been really good so far, and we’ve just been bringing everyone together. I feel that we’ve got another strong team this year that can do good things and the goal is the same — I mean we still want to win as many trophies as we can and eventually get back into that tournament and finish what we started last year.
There’s been quite a bit of roster turnover this past offseason, from players signing NHL contracts to transfers out and transfers in. As one of the leaders, how do you help foster community despite all the changes?
It’s just important to get everyone involved early, as soon as they touch down on campus try and meet everyone and get to know them — especially away from the rink, so that it’s easier when you hit the ice. It’s pretty cool this year that we got our grad transfers because we don’t get those usually; everyone comes in younger and they’re new, but I mean now we got guys that have played 150 college hockey games, so just learning from them and their experience and what they bring to the team is pretty cool. I think it’s been a pretty smooth transition for us, at the beginning we were just learning the new stuff and getting to know everyone but I think we’ve been pretty good so far.
Probably a lot better than last year with all the restrictions!
Oh yeah, it was tough last year! Last year I felt bad for our freshmen just because they couldn’t get to meet anyone too well and there were restrictions on how many people we could have in dorms and stuff, and getting to know everyone outside of the rink was a bit difficult. Definitely easier this year.
What did it mean to the team to have such a great crowd — especially against Northeastern — to begin the year, after a season without fans?
Last year was tough, we were playing in front of those cardboard cutouts and the fake crowd noises which was a little different [laughs]. The fans have been incredible this year — I was just talking to some of the guys who have been here a couple of years, and I think this is the best turnout that we’ve had. We usually get the crowds for BU and Notre Dame and big games like that, but to see what we got at our home opener was the best I think we’ve ever had and even going forward Colorado College and Denver getting as many fans as we did for those was pretty special. It’s been really cool and hopefully we can keep playing well for them and see what we can do here.
You guys had back to back losses to Bentley and then to Colorado College. What was the mindset going into the game against Denver, and how did you guys prepare to bounce back?
Yeah I think those two games were obviously difficult for us. Whatever happened, I think it’s just important that we approach every game the same no matter who we’re playing. A big thing last year was that we never played any out of conference games, and for the young guys this year it’s important to know how important those games are for the rankings at the end of the year. So we knew that Denver was a big game and we knew we had a lot more to give after those two games — they were unfortunate losses, but I thought we bounced back really well against Denver, and hope to keep it going against Vermont.
Can you talk about what it was like to get such a sound win against Denver and get back on track?
They’re a really good team, they always have been a really good team. They’ve given me a bit of trouble ever since I’ve been at BC so [laughs]. It was a great win for us and just after that little slump there in those two games, to be able to shake it off and just know what kind of team we are and what kind of team we want to be it was great. It was [also] great to see that we’re not only playing with those top teams but we can take it to them a little bit here. It was good for our team, and good moving forward.
So on Tuesday, BC Athletics brought back Ice Jam — I’ve never been to one because it’s been ten years since their last one but it looked super fun! Can you talk about what that was like, and what your favorite part was?
It was pretty unique. Like you said they haven’t had it for the past ten years so it was everyone’s first time doing something like that. Again, credit to the students and the fans, they could easily not have shown up and it wouldn’t have been that great, but we had a really big turnout and it was great to see their support not only for our team but also the women’s hockey and the men’s and women’s basketball teams. It was a lot of fun, we got the youth Eagles hockey program and got to skate around with them which was pretty cool, and I hope they got to enjoy that. But I guess my favorite part was just seeing the students getting back in the building and all the support they’ve been able to give us, and seeing the smiles on the junior Eagles’ faces when they got to score some goals. It was a cool event, and well done by BC.
Okay now time for my fun questions!
Favorite thing to do in Boston?
Ooh. That’s tough, because Boston is a big city and there’s so much to do.
You can give a list, if you can’t think of one thing!
Yeah, I mean it’s so easy to get stuck in the BC bubble being so busy with school and hockey, but any chance we get to go off campus is great. Usually that’s for food [author’s note: same], so at least once a week me and a couple of guys try to go out for dinner. I’d say that, just experiencing Boston in different places and seeing different spots whether it’s out in Cambridge by Harvard or close to campus. It’s a pretty unique place, and we’re still trying to find new spots and get off campus as much as we can. Love going out for food, so probably that.
This one’s a bit harder, I stump almost everyone I ask with it — What’s something that BC fans might be surprised to know about you?
Ooh... I guess — I’m from Toronto, but I grew up my whole life playing a bunch of sports. I actually skied until Grade 10 so I did that for a really long time, it was a pretty crazy experience because I’d be racing Wednesday through Sunday and then I’d be driving back and forth from the ski hills to the hockey rink, so credit to my parents there because they put in a lot of hours in the car driving — a couple of hours a day, from training down to hockey. In the summers it was beach volleyball, I played that all the way through and played everything for as long as I could, and then had to focus on hockey. I loved to play different sports growing up.
Favorite off-campus restaurant?
I guess — I got a couple. So my favorite food is sushi, so I kind of like anywhere with sushi and I’m still trying to find new spots and experience that. Just a simple one, we like going to Jim’s Deli for breakfast and lunch, they have some good stuff and we can sit down there and grab some good food. Before games usually there’s a group of us that go over to Fiorella’s and grab Italian food there and Capital Grille for dinner with the team. There’s a bunch of places, hard to narrow it down.
Favorite dining hall meal?
Oh boy. I’m pretty simple here. I usually eat the same thing for lunch every day. I get the chicken, rice, and broccoli, so it’s pretty boring there. This year we got a kitchen in my dorm because we’re in senior housing which is really nice so I’m usually making breakfast and then dinner. We’re pretty fortunate with the training tables so our team gets a buffet at night. I guess my favorite meal there is any time they can do the chicken thighs and sweet potatoes and some rice. My favorite is when they bring out the ice cream bar [laughs].
A massive thank you to Jack for taking the time to chat with us during what must be a busy week!