When Brooks Macek didn’t receive a single contract offer from a North American team following a junior hockey career that was split between the Tri-City Americans and the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, he opted to embrace an opportunity that the Iserlohn Roosters of the Deutsche Eishockey League (DEL) presented to him.
At the time, Macek was only 21-years-old and he and his girlfriend viewed the opportunity to play in Germany as an chance for them to travel and experience a new lifestyle together overseas. But his decision wasn’t only about a romantic adventure with his partner, who is now his wife.
Macek’s father, Ralf, was born and raised in the German town of Geldern, making Brooks a Canadian-German dual citizen. And this factor undoubtedly inspired him to target the DEL for on-ice employment.
Furthermore, the chance to play with a couple of former NHL players in Iserlohn was a major incentive for Macek at that time.
“Mike York was there my first couple years, so I got to play with him for a while,” the Winnpeg, Manitoba native recalled. “Another guy was Deron Quint who actually played for the original Winnipeg Jets,” added Macek.
And those were just a couple of the “pretty cool players” Macek got an opportunity to play with and learn from on the other side of the pond, during his time with the Roosters.
“All the guys were great. When I went over I was only 21, so I was like a really young guy in that league. Most of the guys who go over there, they’ve already had their time here in North America playing in the AHL, and then they make the move over that way. Not usually right after junior, but all the guys were great.”
In 2016, Macek joined the Munich EHC Red Bulls of the DEL as a free-agent, and that’s where he put forth his most productive season in professional hockey. During the 2017-18 campaign, he led his team with 26 goals and registered 44 points through 51 games to finish second on the roster in overall scoring.
Macek didn’t just light up the scoresheet in 2018, though. He also captured his second consecutive league championship with the Red Bulls, and won a silver medal for Germany at the winter olympics in Pyeongchang.
Following his fifth season playing in Germany, Macek finally received the offer that never came after his final year of junior hockey, when the Vegas Golden Knights came calling last summer.
“I never had a chance with an NHL team, and I think every hockey player around the world’s dream is to play in the NHL one day. So I think when Vegas presented an opportunity, I was more than happy and more than excited to take it,” Macek revealed.
But even though Macek and the Golden Knights came to a contractual agreement, the deal was not of the one-way variety, meaning that he would likely need to prove his worth to the organization via their American Hockey League affiliate; the Chicago Wolves.
Going into his first AHL season, the five-foot-10 Macek was acutely aware of certain adjustments he would need to make to his game in order to sustain the same level of success that he had in Europe over the last couple of years. He knew that a return to North America would mean a smaller ice surface than he had grown accustomed to in the DEL.
“I think with the smaller ice, you just have to make your plays a little quicker, keep your head on a swivel, and know what you’re going to do with the puck before you even get it. I find because of that there’s a lot more mistakes, a lot more scoring chances,” he explained.
So far, it has been a successful year for the Wolves, who sit atop the central division standings with 70 points. And to his credit, Macek has assimilated more than seamlessly.
“He’s been great obviously. It’s been a pretty terrific first year for him,” said Wolves teammate Reid Duke.
As one of the team’s elder statesmen at age 27, Macek’s contribution has not only been felt on the ice, but as a mentor off of it as well.
“He’s a pretty quiet guy, but y’know, when he does speak up, y’know it’s important. And he’s a really good guy in the dressing room, just his nature, he’s kinda calming and a bit of an older guy so he’s really looking out for the younger players,” added Duke.
On the ice, Macek exhibits several high-grade attributes that have helped him compile 23 goals and 30 assists through the first 55 regular season contests. Only his line mate, Daniel Carr has outproduced those totals, and Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson points to the veteran having a quick release on his shot as a prime reason for his success offensively.
Thompson also believes that Macek has a high hockey IQ, which allows him to elude opposing defenders and put himself in scoring positions more frequently.
Even in practice, his Wolves teammates are often baffled by how difficult it is to defend against Macek, “He’s got an amazing shot, and he’s a pretty opportunistic player, so whenever he’s making plays or shooting the puck they seem to go in,” said forward Stefan Matteau.
Although it’s typically a difficult task to get hockey players to praise themselves, Macek is aware that he is producing at a high level for the Wolves. But like most hockey players, he is also quick to deflect questions about himself, and move the spotlight in the direction of his teammates.
“Obviously it’s been a pretty good season for a lot of the guys on the team. We’re scoring a lot of goals this year, and I think we might be first in the league in goals for,” he admitted.
With the Wolves approaching the final quarter of their season, and sitting comfortably in a playoff spot, Macek and his teammates have their sights set on achieving even more. And personally, Chicago’s sniper remains focused on getting better each and every day.
“I think I can work on everything in my game. I think you have to keep working on every aspect of your game to get better. I mean if you’re not getting better, then chances are you’re getting worse,” he said.
This philosophy might also help Macek achieve his dream of playing in the NHL.