When Kody McDonald first started out in hockey, he said something memorable to his mother.
“He wanted to hit the players into the boards like the Hurricanes did,” McDonald’s mother Marla recalled.
Fast forward to now, McDonald has hit many players into the boards as well as fought with many others, because in his mind, when he sees a teammate in a bad situation, McDonald’s instinct is to protect them.
“I think even without hockey he’s always been that kind of a kid, just sticking up for his friends, and he’s pretty loyal that way whatever team he’s on,” Marla said.
“It makes me proud of him that he is that type of person who doesn’t let other people bully his friends, or his teammates, and I think it shows lots of character, and I think that makes him a good person,” she added.
Throughout his hockey career, McDonald has had the opportunity to mature and grow due to leaving home to play for multiple teams.
Growing up in Lethbridge, Alberta, gave McDonald the opportunity to appreciate the talent of many other hockey players from an early onset.
“Being a smaller town with only about, at the time, 70,000 people, you only realize how good the hockey talent is out in other cities and what not,” McDonald said.
“So, when I was about nine or ten, I was fortunate enough to go play summer hockey in Edmonton, and travel for hockey that way, and see a lot of other cool competition,” he added.
McDonald began his organized hockey career in the 2010-11 season, as he began playing for the Lethbridge Raiders Bantam AA of the South-Central Alberta Bantam Hockey League (SCABL).
The following year, McDonald flew out to Kelowna, British Columbia, and would spend the next two seasons at the Pursuit of Excellence hockey academy at the age of thirteen.
While there, he played in 80 games, recording 50 goals and 98 assists for 148 points.
“Going all the way to Kelowna, we had two hours of ice every single day with workouts and skill sessions while going to school, and it was just all hockey, hockey, hockey,” McDonald recalled.
“My development took over a lot there. I always felt that I was a decent hockey player, but as soon as I left there after my first year, I felt like I’d achieved a lot,” he added.
Following his time with the Pursuit of Excellence, McDonald returned home to play for the Lethbridge Hurricanes Midget AAA prior to his Western Hockey League years.
In 2013, McDonald was then selected 24th overall in the second round of the WHL draft, and would go on to play for the Prince George Cougars, the Prince Albert Raiders, and the Victoria Royals over the course of five seasons.
In his first season in the WHL, McDonald traveled 992 km away from home and would spend three full seasons with the Prince George Cougars.
While with the Cougars, McDonald played in 247 games, recording 63 goals and 70 assists for 133 points.
Partway through the 2017-18 season, McDonald was traded to the Prince Albert Raiders. Prince Albert is a town in Saskatchewan 755 km from Lethbridge.
On the Raiders, McDonald played in 70 games, recording 21 goals and 29 assists for 50 points.
“When you look back at your junior moments, those are the two and a half years I know I’ll always remember and always will come to mind first. I just never played with a group of guys like that or been in a city that loved hockey as much as Prince Albert,” McDonald said.
Partway through his 2018-19 season, McDonald got traded to the Victoria Royals. Victoria is a town in BC 1269 km away from Lethbridge.
While with Victoria, McDonald played in 32 games, recording 17 goals and 10 assists for 27 points.
“I ended up getting traded to Victoria and ended up being in a beautiful city and a fun place to play, so it’s cool going to Prince George in the cold, and then to the prairie cold, and then all the way to Victoria to finish with the very nice weather was fun,” McDonald said.
Following his WHL career, McDonald will be joining the Carleton Ravens men’s hockey team at Carleton University. While in Ottawa, Ontario, McDonald will be 3194 km away from Lethbridge.
“I got to talk to the coaching staff and some of the players last year and I got a little bit of a taste of what it was like through what they had to say,” McDonald said about his decision to commit to Carleton.
“I had a couple former teammates, Brogan O’Brien and Aaron Boyd that played on the team, and they honestly couldn’t say one negative thing about this place. They’ve always seemed to make good decisions, so they’re good guys to trust,” he added.
While he knows O’Brien and Boyd from the Prince George Cougars, the Ravens trip to Europe to play in four exhibition games will allow McDonald the chance to bond with the teammates he’ll play with for the next four to five years.
“It’s not everyday that you get to go all the way over across the other side of the world. Also, the bonding experience with the guys, you know, you get 30 guys together like that and you’re on an airplane, you’re together 10-11 days before the season starts, it’s just a great way to bond traveling through Europe and seeing other countries, so I’m excited,” McDonald said.
While in Europe, McDonald will be about 8000 km away from Lethbridge.
But due to the connection McDonald has with his mother, he’ll feel as if he’s close to her due to the phone calls that they have.
Due to the phone calls that McDonald has with his parents, his mother believes that they are “very connected even though he has been away for so long.”
Throughout his career, McDonald’s mother has voiced her belief that all the travel to teams and spending time away from his family has given her son the chance to grow into the player he is today.
“I think their values in their home has helped guide him, but they also had the non parental string, so they can see things at a different perspective,” Marla said about the billet families McDonald has lived with.
“So, I think it helped him be more open about how things are going for him in hockey, so, he’s had a ton of different perspectives from different people along the way which helps mold him into how he is,” she added.
Furthermore, Marla has also noticed each year her son has returned home after the season, he has grown and matured much more than when he left.
“This year, I’ve just noticed a huge difference,” Marla said.
“He’s very focused, and he knows what he wants for his future, and I think the WHL and his hockey has molded him into caring more about people around him, and he’s just matured a lot over the past five to six years,” she added.
Due to all the people he has met throughout his hockey career, McDonald has learned a lot of valuable life lessons in friendship and loyalty.
“You see a lot of characters come in and out of dressing rooms, and you meet a lot of different people from the hockey world,” McDonald said.
“So, having that family bond and that bond that you have that can’t be created anywhere else besides with playing sports, so when you play sports together and you get those bonds, and you meet new people, and you get to spend a season with them, or two, or three, it’s something that’s really cherishable,” he added.
In terms of his future hockey career, McDonald and his parents hope he can go play pro one day.
“I’m also hoping after university he still tries his hand at hockey whether it’s in Europe or wherever, and I just want him to be happy, so, I just want him to enjoy what he does and I want him to be happy,” Marla said.
“I’m proud of him. Both his dad and I are proud of him,” she added.