Ben McCartney has just a few games left to play in his first season of pro hockey.
The Macdonald, Manitoba product spent the 2021-22 campaign in the AHL with the Tuscon Roadrunners and has put up 30 points through 51 games. The forward says he soaked in a ton of knowledge in his rookie year.
“The biggest step up is the age difference. I found that it took a few games to get into things and get comfortable with that,” says McCartney. “It’s just like your first year of junior all over again. You learn a whole bunch of different things, like how to take care of yourself on the ice and off the ice. I found when competing against men you have to learn how to adapt to the game and play your role. That’s one of the most important parts of being a pro hockey player, learning how to play your role.”
This was a year of development for McCartney and the Roadrunners as they have a record of 21-35-6 so far this season. He says they know what they’ll have to do to be stronger in the tough situations next year.
“Those one-goal games in the middle of the season are crucial. Every point matters throughout the season, whether it’s the first game or the last,” McCartney explains. “You have to treat every game like a playoff game. And you, as an individual, have to go into the game with confidence while playing your role the best that you can. If you’re not having your A-game, you have to have your B-game. It’s all about consistency.”
While McCartney is playing in a new league and with a new team, he is also living in a new city, quite a ways away from his roots in Manitoba. The 20-year-old talks about the shift to playing in Tucson.
“Going to OHA (Ontario Hockey Academy) when I was 14 and 15-years-old helped me a lot to be able to adapt away from home,” McCartney continues. “Arizona is a beautiful place, Tucson especially. It’s a perfect spot, not too busy, and I’ve just been living with my teammate Ryan McGregor, he’s really helped me out. You just have to build a little bit of independence when you’re this far from home, but it’s been unbelievable.”
McCartney spent the last four years of his career in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings, where he scored 151 total points. He describes what’s stuck with him most from his time in Brandon.
“Brandon had a culture that gave you a lot of advice. They teach you a lot of things,” McCartney explains. “Being able to take the things I learned from my coaches there, who did a great job guiding me on and off the ice, I can’t thank them enough. They helped me adapt to my first year of pro hockey a lot quicker.”
With just six games left in the regular season, the local discusses the mentality he wants to bring into next year.
“You really have to have mental strength. You don’t have to be crazy fast and you don’t have to have an unbelievably shot if you can read plays well. The mental part of the game is the most important part,” says McCartney. “This offseason I’ll be working on getting confidence in my skating, being a more efficient skater, and being able to keep my head up. The game happens super fast, and you have to be able to read the plays quick, which is one thing I have to work on.”
McCartney is excited about what his future holds in pro hockey.