Until Maclellan turned slightly to the right and looked down at his feet, I was unable to confirm his identity. (Sarah Fuqua)
Jack Maclellan may as well be Nashville’s version of the Loch Ness Monster.
Both are creatures of legend. There have been reported sightings of both, but none have ever been confirmed. Men have given up their careers in search of both only to come up short-handed.
Also, both have Scottish names.
This summer, it was my turn to seek out Nashville’s Nessie.
Thus, I got my affairs in order, packed up my bags, called my loved ones and went in search of the legend that is Jack Maclellan.
After a long journey through lands where men once battled their brethren, my quest took me to the temple of the goddess Athena – the Parthenon.
From there, I abandoned my transport and set off on foot across the vast expanse until I reached the frozen tundra of the Centennial Sportsplex.
Deep in the bowels of the icy building, I came face-to-face with an impossibility.
“Jack Maclellan, I presume,” I stated to the figure who stood before me.
“That’s me,” the dark haired stranger responded.
Born in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Jack Maclellan grew up in Calgary and played junior hockey in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, well outside of the limelight of the Canadian Hockey League.
Undrafted at 18, Maclellan opted for an Ivy League education, enrolling at Brown University.
Maclellan played four years at Brown, evolving into a team leader and becoming team captain during his senior year. He was the team’s leading-scorer from his sophomore year through his senior year, averaging over a point per game in that span. At the end of his college career, Maclellan was one of only a handful of Brown players to have topped 100 points in his NCAA career.
Named to the All-Ivy team after his senior year, Maclellan signed an entry-level contract with the Nashville Predators on March 10.
Unfortunately for Maclellan, he would not be suiting up for any games. The American Hockey League’s “Clear Day” was March 6. On that day, all AHL teams were required to submit a list of players to the league who would be on the roster for the remainder of the season. Only the players on the Clear Day rosters were eligible to play in games after March 6. As Maclellan was signed 4 days after Clear Day, he was ineligible to play for Nashville’s AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals.
Thus, Jack Maclellan’s legend was born. Unable to be assigned to Milwaukee, Maclellan was officially on Nashville’s NHL roster and practiced with the club, but never went so far as suiting up for warmups, much less entering a game.
And so, after being healthy scratched for the next two months, one question began to dominate Nashville: “Who is Jack Maclellan?”
Cautiously and slowly, I engaged in conversation with Maclellan, careful not to drive him away – a skill I had learned by watching Sasquatch hunters on cable. Maclellan had reportedly spent the better part of two months practicing with an NHL team while the majority of the public caught neither sight nor scent of him.
“It was pretty cool, obviously,” Maclellan said. “It was a pretty amazing experience for me. I was pretty fortunate to get a chance to do that.”
Having the amazing experience of coming face-to-face with the elusive Maclellan, I knew the feeling well. However, I stayed quiet as Maclellan continued to speak, fearing the repercussions of an interruption.
“All of those guys are elite athletes and great players,” Maclellan said. “Everyone does every part of the game well. There’s nothing that those guys can’t do. You can learn a lot from those guys. The first time I was on the ice was an eye-opener. It was just amazing how fast they moved the puck, how quick they were on their feet.”
The Jack Maclellan timeline for many ended with his playing days at Brown. However, he signed an entry-level contract with Nashville and entered hence into his contractually-nefarious hiding place. As Maclellan had been a mystery, the reasons for his journey to Music City remained unclear.
“I was really comfortable with Nashville,” Maclellan said. “I had been in contact with them for a couple of years in college and I came to development camp last summer. I liked everything about the organization – the people, the players, the coaches, the management. I think this place has a reputation for being loyal and honest and caring about their players.”
Maclellan took on the role of a martial artist training high in the Himalayas with the league of shadows, utilizing his lack of ice time to learn how to play with professional players.
“Being on the ice with those guys gave me the confidence that will help me do well when the next season starts, whether I’m in Milwaukee or wherever,” Maclellan said. “I want to try to make a quick transition and adapt to the pro game from the college game so I can start to excel.”
“It’s a more controlled game than college,” he continued. “College is just a run and gun game and guys going wild. I need to reel myself in a little bit and learn as I go.”
Two months of obscurity turned Jack Maclellan into a virtual man of mystery in Nashville. His name appeared on healthy scratch lists, in game programs and on rosters across the Internet. However, a Jack Maclellan sighting was not included in the price of admission at Bridgestone Arena.
“I’m sure that a lot of people didn’t know who I was and what my story was,” Maclellan. “I was just up here trying to make a good impression and just doing the right things.”
The ultimate question remained unanswered. I had traveled long and far and spent many minutes in my journey attempting to find my digital recorder and a parking space. I could not abandon my quest at this point, lest I be forced to return the next day and hope to do the impossible and find the Predators’ Dr. Livingstone twice. Without any further adieu, I sought the Grail.
Who is Jack Maclellan?
“You’ll figure out who I am. That’s the plan.”