After playing in Europe for the past five seasons, Brooks Macek returned to North America hungry like a wolf

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.

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Ex NHLer Michael York (left) in 2002-03 during his stint with the Edmonton Oilers, and Deron Quint (right) of the Winnipeg Jets during the 1995-96 regular season. These photos are property of Getty Images and were assembled courtesy of http://www.MakePhotoGallery.com

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.”

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Brooks Macek prepared for a defensive zone face-off during his time with the Iserlohn Roosters of the DEL

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.

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Brooks Macek (second from the right) celebrates with teammates from Germany’s national team, after capturing silver at the 2018 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.

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Brooks Macek preparing for a preseason game with the Vegas Golden Knights last September. This photo belongs to NHL.com

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.

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Brooks Macek celebrates a goal with teammate Gage Quinney (This photo belongs to the Chicago Wolves)

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.

Pirri may find himself an NHL regular before too long

It’s been nearly ten years since Brandon Pirri heard his name called by the Chicago Blackhawks, in the second round of NHL entry draft in June of 2009, and he’s played nearly 600 games at the pro level since then. However, more than half of those have been at the American Hockey League level in recent years.

After breaking in with the Blackhawks in 2013, Pirri had a steady run of NHL success playing for the Panthers, where he managed a 22-goal-season in 2014-15, as well as the Rangers and Ducks.

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Photo courtesy of NHL.com

Despite a productive season last year for the Chicago Wolves, Pirri only managed a three game call up with the NHL’s Golden Knights. But while some people in his shoes might be discouraged by the lack of opportunities received by Vegas, Pirri has kept his nose to the grindstone, and may finally be on the precipice of earning his way back to the world’s best hockey league.

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Forward Brandon Pirri during a call up with the Vegas Golden Knight. Photo belongs to NHL.com

Following an exceptional start to the regular season with the Wolves in Chicago, in which Pirri registered 42 points in 29 games played, the Toronto native has finally been rewarded with a couple of recent call ups since the end of November. Of course, these opportunities have also come as a result of injuries to the Golden Knights forward group.

Nevertheless, Pirri is making the most of his NHL chances, having posted eight goals and 13 points in just 14 games for Vegas this year. In fact, Pirri has scored 11 goals and 16 points in his 16 total games at the NHL level as part of this organization.

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Brandon Pirri’s stat line from the past two seasons. Courtesy of hockeydb.com

According to Ryan Quigley, who covers Vegas and authors the blog Knights on Ice, it is Pirri’s defensive play without the puck that has ultimately kept Pirri from being a full-time NHLer for Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant.

“If anything is holding Pirri back from a more permanent spot on the Vegas roster (and the NHL as a whole), it’s his skills on defense… or lack thereof. Both the forward and Gerard Gallant have admitted that defense isn’t his strong suit. Scoring goals is meaningful, obviously, but in a season that’s seen a lot of defensive struggles, the Golden Knights may want players who can play the full 200 feet.”

While Pirri’s defensive play may still be a work in progress, his offensive production is becoming difficult to ignore.

“At this rate, Pirri’s productivity on offense goes above and beyond to the point where it doesn’t matter. Not to mention, Pirri is improving. Against the Los Angeles Kings, the only game that he didn’t earn a point [since his most recent call up], he forced a turnover that directly led to a Golden Knights goal,” acknowledged Quigley.


The Brandon Pirri saga has been a long term news story for the Golden Knights, for a while, but perhaps things might be resolved if Vegas decides to keep him on their roster full time. If not, he very well could be used as a trading piece by the Golden Knights in advance of the NHL’s Feb. 5th trade deadline.

If Vegas refuses to make a long term gamble on Pirri soon, my bet is that another NHL organization will. Stay tuned following the All-Star break, as this story continues to unfold.

Some DePaul students absent from polls

As many people across the United States of America will be exercising their freedom of speech and their right to vote in the 2018 state primary election on Tuesday.

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Republican candidate Bruce Rauner and democrat J.B. Pritzker, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

While a vast portion of DePaul University students made it a point to go to polling stations on Tuesday, a steady collection of the university’s attendees conveniently casted their absentee ballots if Illinois is not their home state.

But not everyone on campus will be deploying their ticket to democracy in this election. Brandon Sommer, for instance, has decided not to vote on Tuesday because he feels apathetic to both republican candidate Bruce Rauner, as well as J.B. Pritzker of the democrat party.

“It’s sad, but I don’t trust either candidate, and I don’t feel any positive attachment to one of the parties this time around at all,” said Sommer, who is a junior at DePaul.

Minnesota native Dillon Orth, who contrarily would have liked to vote in the midterms, but he blamed his school midterms and his busy schedule for getting in the way of mailing in a ballot to his home state.

Other DePaul students didn’t exactly ‘forget’ to vote like Orth did, or choose to abstain from participating in this election like Sommer did. The international segment of DePaul’s student body was naturally prohibited from this process altogether given their status as an alien in the United States.

“I wish I could vote. That would be great. I think right now the political climate is a little bit strange for international students. So being able to have a voice right now would be great,” said Jennifer Kuo, a graduate student at DePaul who studies marketing analysis.

Kuo is Taiwanese and has only lived in North America for under a year, but she would like to settle in the states permanently following her graduation in 2019. However, since the Trump administration took over in 2016, she admits that her status as an international student has made it more difficult for her to plan out her future.

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U.S. President Donald J. Trump, courtesy of CNN

“It’s been more stressful for sure. I thought it would be easy because I have a stem degree, so after I graduate I can do three years working here. So, I thought ‘well, I’ll have three years to get my things together,’ but I keep hearing in the news that they’re going to change this, or that, so I don’t know if by the time I graduate if things will be different. So, there’s just a lot of question marks as an international student.”

In Taiwan, Kuo described the electoral process as being slightly more convenient for those like Dillon Orth, who have busy schedules and may not prioritize voting ahead of other personal commitments.

“I think back home we have a lot more locations where you can go vote. And it also runs for the entire day back home. I know the polls here close at six or seven o’clock here in the states, but for us it runs throughout the night. And our elections are always on the weekend as well,” Kuo explained.

Anamika, an international student at DePaul from India, echoed the sentiments of Kuo in terms of wishing she could be participating in the American primaries.

“It’s tough, especially when you know you want to stay here long-term, and everything else that I’m doing here contributes to society, but you’re not given the ability to vote. It kind of hurts,” she said on Tuesday.

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Skyline of Chicago via the Chicago Tribune

Meanwhile, despite remaining hopeful that she may one day be able to contribute to democracy in America, Anamika did indicate that she is still learning how the process works in this country compared to back home in India.

“India is also a democratic country just like here, so people always talk about it and people have their opinions. One thing that is different is that there I have a say and I can vote, and I can be part of all the discussions and my vote matters there,” Anamika said.

Anamika also joked that while she is not allowed vote, she is not aware of any law that prohibits her to follow the results; and she looks forward to doing so.