Cape Breton Screaming Eagles defenceman Adam McCormick is playing hockey with a heavy heart. Skating with the QMJHL team has provided the 16-year-old with a little refuge from what he and his family are facing at home.
His mom, Audrey, is awaiting a lung transplant. She’s been fighting lung disease for more than seven years, and it was a big decision for McCormick to leave home. He wasn’t sure if going away to play major junior hockey was a good idea given the circumstances.
Sydney, NS, where the Screaming Eagles play, is a seven-hour drive from his western New Brunswick roots.
McCormick played last season with the Fredericton Canadians major midget team, about an hour away from his Woodstock, NB, home. He’s also an eleventh round pick of the hometown Woodstock Slammers in the Maritime Hockey League, a local junior A circuit under the CJHL umbrella.
He placed a call to Cape Breton head coach, Marc-André Dumont.
“I feel like right now may not be the best time for me to go to major junior, I need to stay close to my family and support my mom. She’s going through a lot right now,” McCormick told Dumont at the time.
Dumont talked it over with him and with his parents, and urged McCormick to come back to Cape Breton so they could discuss his plans for the season.
“After discussing it with his parents, I got the impression that his parents wanted him to pursue major junior and go after his dream of playing in the NHL one day,” said Dumont. “They wanted him to take on that opportunity of playing major junior at 16 years old.
“So I said: ‘Let’s talk about this in person. Come on back to Cape Breton and we’ll sit down and chat about it.’ So, we discussed it, and one of the things we discussed was that [a way to help his] mom would be discussing organ [donation]. We have a lot of followers on social media, so maybe we can build a video to help raise awareness for it. He was excited about the idea, and we did the video.”
That video has received traction on YouTube and on the team’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and been recognized by several teams and media, including the Canadian Transplant Society’s President and CEO James Breckenridge.
McCormick said that recording the video was difficult, but the message is worth sharing.
“It was tough because it’s always in your head – the condition my mom’s in – but it wasn’t hard at the same time,” McCormick said.
“It turned out good, and I’m happy with it.”
“All we’ve heard are great comments. People are talking about it,” added Dumont.
Right now, Audrey’s awaiting more tests while McCormick patrols the Screaming Eagle blue line.
“She’s going to Toronto for more assessments and testing to see when she can undergo a lung transplant, sometime in early December,” he said.
McCormick has played in 12 of his team’s first 24 games of 2016-17, recording three assists and is a plus-4. He says that coming to the rink has given him some peace of mind in a difficult time.
“I’m most happy at the rink,” he said. “[My mom’s condition] surely hasn’t done anything negative. If anything it’s pushed me to be better.
“I’m doing my job. I’m being me out there.”
Dumont has been pleasantly surprised with the play of his youngest defender.
“There’s no doubt he’s a high character guy. He was the best surprise of our training camp,” Dumont said. “We drafted him in the third round last summer. We brought 22 16- and 17-year-olds to camp. We kept eight [of those] guys that really earned their spots. He really surprised us and he had a great camp.
“I think the support he’s getting from his family is allowing him to truly focus on his passion to play hockey,” Dumont continued. “The support is letting him improve and focus on playing his best, and it’s a great way to support his mother.
“It brings up an interesting issue, that most Canadians are in support of organ donation, but most don’t have their cards signed. It brings awareness to the importance of actually signing the card and bringing attention to your loved ones, because even if the card is signed, it’s up to them whether your organs will be given.
“The opportunity was there for us to raise awareness for it, and use our platform as a major junior team with social media to impact society, with one of our boys whose mother is fighting for her life.”