Hockey players come from different backgrounds and different areas, hailing from all around the globe. Some grow up in major cities or hockey hotbeds. Other grow up in small communities or in rural parts of their country. Condors forward Ian McKenzie would fall into the latter.
“You know, it’s definitely country,” said McKenzie speaking of his hometown of Weyburn, Saskatchewan. “My closest neighbor was a mile away.”
The town of roughly 10,000 is more known for its farming and grain collection than its hockey players. Luckily for the 6’5” Condor, he can do both, including raising and showing his cattle for eight years.
“You start out on the farm and learning things from mom and dad,” he said. “Then you go to meetings where you learn about the proper way to raise and treat the cattle. It teaches you a lot about what you need to do.”
Growing up on a farm requires a strong discipline and commitment to getting the job done. McKenzie learned that a young age.
“5 a.m., when the sun comes up, you’re out there working,” he recalled. “I didn’t have to use the heavy machinery much since my dad took care of that, but there was loading and unloading grain and driving truck. It’s hard and stressful. If anything goes wrong, it’s pretty expensive.”
As Ian aged and put the hours working his family’s 3,000 acre chunk of land, he learned that his hard work and knowledge could pay off lucratively. The meetings that he attended turned into a club for those in the area of the province to get together and discuss what they have been doing with their cattle. From there, money was on the line in cattle shows and auctions.
“The clubs gave you what you needed to know about the animal,” he said. “You’d prepare the animals to be competition ready. When they were you’d face off against the others around you and then against everyone else. There was lots of money to be had and I guess that’s why I got into it.”
For eight years, the farmer/hockey player learned about feeding his animals, how to clean and groom them, and most of all, developed the work ethic to be successful.
“I was Reserve Grand Champion for one of the competitions,” said McKenzie. “It was a tribute to my uncle, because he would give us the cattle to raise and prepare for the competitions.”
When hockey stepped in and became a priority, McKenzie wasn’t able to put the same time in that was necessary. His parents picked up most of the duties then as “Mac” focused on his new career. And what of that farm and hard work now?
“They (his parents) just sold the farm and all the machinery and are moving to Hawaii for six months,” McKenzie said with a smile. “I guess that’s what 35 years of hard work will do for you.”
Keep working hard, Mac.