116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Mac Bennett has had barely a week's worth of practice with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, though he had a great reason for an extended absence.
The rookie defenseman from Rhode Island was a third-round draft pick over the summer of the NHL's Montreal Canadiens and spent 11 days recently participating in their rookie camp and training camp. When a guy is throwing around names like Mike Cammalleri, Andrei Kostitsyn and Scott Gomez, that's some serious stuff.
Those were three NHL veterans Bennett, 18, found himself on the ice with.
“A blast,” said Bennett, whose Riders begin play at the USHL's preseason Fall Classic in Sioux City tonight. “Those guys ... it makes the game so much fun. That gives me a reason to try and get there.”
Bennett said he kept mostly to himself during his time in Montreal, though he did have a nice conversation with Cammalleri about the University of Michigan. Cammalleri played for the Wolverines and wanted to give Bennett, who will play there next year, some tips on what to expect.
Other than that, the teenager wasn't overly intimidated by his surroundings. That might have something to do with his pedigree.
Bennett's grandfather, Harvey, played goalie for the Boston Bruins during the 1944-45 NHL season. His uncle, Curt, was a center in the 1970s for the St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Flames and New York Rangers. His uncle, Harvey Jr., played center in the NHL for the Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota North Stars.
Mac's father, Jim, was a Flames draft pick in 1977 and played briefly professionally.
“Once I was born, I guess everyone was sitting around going ‘What's he going to be?'” Mac said. “My uncle Bill said ‘Are you kidding me? He doesn't have a choice. He's playing hockey.' But at the same time, it's a game I love. It's the reason I'm here. That's why I want to play in college and professionally.”
But first things first. Bennett played prep school hockey at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut last year. It's a big step up to the United States Hockey League.
Especially when you haven't played or practiced much with your teammates so far.
"It's a little bit faster, guys are a little bit bigger," said Bennett, 6-foot, 170 pounds. "You've got to make your decisions faster. But as time has gone on, I feel like I'm getting better and better with it."
He was asked if he feels pressure to succeed in hockey because of his family.
“Yes and no,” he said. “I think I've already exceeded all my expectations. But I've got to set the bar higher and higher for myself. They all want me to succeed. But at the same time, if it stops at Michigan, I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure it doesn't, but if it does, I'll still be happy."