Josh MacDonald has done his duty to save the financially strapped University of Maine some money.
The director of hockey operations rented a 12-foot box truck and drove with all the Black Bears’ men’s hockey equipment to East Lansing, Mich., for the Thursday-Friday night series against Michigan State University.
He was accompanied by student equipment assistant Ashton White and student volunteer Tyler Walsh.
Walsh is the son of late Black Bear hockey coach Shawn Walsh, and he returned to his hometown. His mother, Tracey (Mason), still lives in the area along with his grandparents, former MSU head coach and athletic director Ron Mason and his wife Marion.
His younger brother, Travis, is a defenseman with the Muskegon (Mich.) Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League who has verbally committed to attend Michigan State.
MacDonald, a 2002 University of Maine graduate, returned to the state in 2005 and worked in economic development and planning before becoming the equipment manager at Maine in 2007 and eventually adding the title of director of hockey operations.
His responsibilities include the men’s and women’s hockey team’s equipment and coordinating the budget and travel for the men’s program. He is also the liaison between the program and the alumni.
MacDonald figures that by trucking the equipment to East Lansing rather than putting it on the plane, they saved the university approximately $3,200.
“It cost roughly $850-$900 by truck and $4,000 by plane with all the fees,” explained MacDonald. “These economic times call for economic measures. We try to do what we can to cut costs and cut corners.”
The trio left at approximately 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon and arrived at 10:10 Wednesday morning.
MacDonald did all of the driving, but he said White and Walsh stayed awake most of the way.
“One of them took a 20-minute nap and the other took a 30-minute nap,” said MacDonald.
They stopped four times.
“Our only major stop was in Sturbridge, Mass.,” said MacDonald.
“(The trip) wasn’t bad,” he added.
They packed snack food — Walsh’s granola and trail mix was a particular favorite — and stayed awake by conversing and playing word games.
“We had our share of ‘Name your top five albums or movies’ and we played some generic games to keep busy and occupy the time,” said MacDonald. “We would name NHL teams or American League teams until someone couldn’t come up with one.
“In another game, one of us would name a professional athlete and the next guy would have to name an athlete whose first letter in his first name is the same as the first letter in the last name of the previous athlete named.”
For example, if the first guy said Paul Kariya, the next guy’s athlete’s first name would have to begin with a “K.”
“We started making up every game we could possibly think of,” said MacDonald.
He said the weather was “perfectly clear” and the worst part of the trip was on I-90.
“From Syracuse to Cleveland, there was a lot of one-lane or alternating one-lane traffic,” said MacDonald.
MacDonald is used to driving a rental truck.
He used to transport hockey equipment on a regular basis when he was the equipment manager for the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies of the ECHL.
But the Millinocket native said this was the longest trip he had ever taken in a rented truck.
He consumed a lot of caffeinated soda and said he had friends and family members calling him to help him stay alert.
MacDonald pointed out that he is only halfway through his journey but added that “we’ll take a little more time coming home.”
“There is less of a sense of urgency,” said MacDonald.
He did say that after the trip, the team owed it to them to notch at least one win.
“If they don’t win, we’ll bring their equipment back home all wet,” he joked.