Assistant GM Colin MacDonald will use his experience on the ice to help the Knights win

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For nearly a decade, Ralph Paterson was the sheriff of Sec. 101, near the Zamboni entrance, at the building now known as Budweiser Gardens.

His daughter, Carol, is still an usher at the London arena, more often at suite level.

Things would get a little interesting during a four-year stretch when the old Plymouth OHL crew rolled in to face the Knights.

Colin MacDonald — Carol’s kid and Ralph’s grandson — was a Whalers defenceman.

“It was hard — I had to show a little emotion when he did something good or they scored,” Paterson recalls with a laugh. “I used to joke about that with (Gardens director of operations) Gary Turrell. He would say, ‘Just don’t let Mark (Hunter) see you.'”

The Knights brass must have never noticed.

Earlier this month, MacDonald was announced as the team’s assistant GM, replacing Jake Goldberg, who was hired by the Arizona Coyotes. The Hunter-led club, built on a family foundation, remains that way into their 18th season of ownership.

“I wanted this really bad,” said MacDonald, the 25-year-old Londoner. “I always wanted to stay involved in the game. Growing up, I was a Knights fan and we had season tickets. Then, my family worked at this rink.

“When I was drafted by Plymouth, I had to change my allegiances, but now, I want to help this team win a Memorial Cup. I’m going to work very hard to achieve that.”

And when MacDonald rolls up his sleeves, good things usually happen.

He was an unsung rearguard growing up, selected by Plymouth in the 14th round of the draft. He didn’t make the team until his second season, but soon became a leader, and eventually, the captain of a title contender.

“It’s one of the reasons I really liked him,” Knights GM Rob Simpson said. “He’s been through good times, tough times, the schooling, everything. He understands a lot of things about the league quicker because he’s been through it.

“And the players, when they are speaking to him, will know he’s been in their shoes.”

The Whalers put together a super team in 2013, but bowed out in the third round of the playoffs . . . to the Knights.

That was MacDonald’s final OHL game. London trainer Doug Stacey told Paterson they have been teasing MacDonald a little bit about it.

He enrolled at Western and played two years for the Mustangs. In the pre-season of his third campaign, he suffered his fourth concussion in eight years and walked away from the ice.

“I had a tough conversation with the coaches, but I was focused on the other parts of my life,” he said. “So I went to school and helped (Western coach Clarke Singer) coach a minor bantam AAA team with the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs. He’s been a great mentor for me. So was Mike Vellucci (the ex-Plymouth GM/coach, now with the (Carolina) Hurricanes who recommended MacDonald for the Knights gig). He held us accountable for everything.

“I had to mature pretty quick.”

He graduated from the Ivey Business School on the Dean’s List — a source of immense satisfaction for his family.

“I’m so proud of him, you wouldn’t believe it,” Paterson said. “He wanted to get back into hockey and this is a dream job for him. It’s the greatest feeling. He’s worked hard for everything he’s got and I think he’ll do great with the Knights.”

MacDonald is pretty proud of his grandfather, too.

Ralph’s not a Bud usher any more. But nearly every day at the rink, Colin passes by the city’s sports hall of fame plaque honouring the 1970 London TV Cable national champion fastball team.

Paterson was second baseman and team captain.

“I don’t tell him too much about that because it was so long ago,” Ralph said, “but I’ll tell you, watching him play hockey was four of the best years I ever had.”

Now, the family will be watching to see what kind of team he helps put on that ice.

“I’ll be back on the bus again, just like I was playing,” MacDonald said. “I don’t have the analytical background Jake Goldberg had. It’s something I want to learn and add to my too chest for management. But I think my experience will help me.

“I’m looking forward to learning what it takes to help build a championship team with the Knights.” 

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