Kyle McNair has taken advantage of the opportunity to travel in junior hockey, experiencing several levels of play in Ontario before wrapping it up with the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings this season.
In the final stages of wrapping up an awesome season in Rapids, McNair (‘00/Corbyville, Ont.) has made the decision to stay in the Dairy State for a few more seasons, committing to attend and play hockey at Lawrence University in Appleton.
After travelling so far to play junior, the chance to visit and commit to Lawrence was easy for McNair.
“Lawrence contacted me early this season and things just kind of took off from there,” said McNair. “Lawrence is based in Appleton, which is only 90 minutes away from Rapids, so getting there for a visit was easier than a school further away.
“Lawrence is a very good school, so when they talked to me, I was already excited,” McNair added. “Fortunately, I was able to visit the school and make it back for practice on time. I saw the rest of the school and athletic facilities and everything was top notch. They had my program and I really liked the coaching staff and the plans they had for the next four years.”
McNair said he will major in pre-health when he starts at the Appleton, Wis., university this fall.
The Corbyville, Ont., goaltender played youth hockey at the AAA level on a couple Central/Eastern Ontario teams before moving to junior at the end of the 2017-18 season. He wrapped up last season in the Tier 2 league in Northern Ontario but decided to test the waters south of the border this season.
He credits the Riverkings assistant coach Jack Winger with connecting him with his new team for 2020-21.
“[Winger] got in touch with me during the off-season about the possibility of coming to play in Rapids and connected me with the Head Coach, Marty Quarters,” said McNair in an e-mail interview.
“After talking with Marty, I learned what the organization was about and how they ran things, and it was something I wanted to be a part of and felt it was a good fit.”
The 6-foot-4-inch, 205-pound goaltender is one of three goaltenders for the Riverkings and he has carried his fair share so far this season, posting a 12-1-1 record with a 1.87 goals against average and a save percentage of .916, helping the Riverkings to top spot in the Premier League’s Midwest West Division, a spot they have sat in for most of the season so far, but only have a one-point lead on as of Feb. 22.
“We have a pretty good group of goalies here and it’s a fun group to be a part of. We all support each other and sit next to each other in the room, so we’re always talking,” said McNair. He added that even with a close-knit but competitive trio of netminders, the competition level goes way past game nights.
“As far as practices go, the compete level is high, and we push each other day in and day out. We have some of the best shooters in the league shooting on us every day and we take advantage of that by giving 100 percent in practices and goalie skates all the time,” McNair added. “I think the three of us can agree we’ve developed this year because of it.”
Quarters rebuilds quality with quality every season and the bar is always set high for the Riverkings.
“Yeah, this team’s been on a mission since Day 1,” said McNair. “I can say that because we had team goals set in place on the first day of training camp and have continued to chase them the whole year. We have an older group this year and we have a lot of returning guys who are familiar with systems and coaching who can help the new or younger guys out with understanding concepts and things like that. Ultimately it comes down to how much the guys work hard for each other and the guys we have this year go above and beyond that.”
Corbyville is a small town just outside the city of Belleville, Ont., and it is about the same size as Wisconsin Rapids with a similar climate, but there are some cultural differences and things McNair said he missed from home.
“I’d have to say adjusting from kilometers to miles took a little bit of getting used to and I do have say, I miss Tim Hortons,” said the young goalie. “The support we get in Rapids from the fans is tremendous. At games, they always have your back and even out in the public people will talk to us about the games and the team itself. The team has a great relationship with the minor hockey program as well so a couple of us guys are fortunate enough to be able to volunteer with some of the teams. It’s also really cool hearing little kids say they want to grow up and play for the Riverkings.”
For now, though, he can return his focus to the task at hand. Based on current position and the team depth, the Riverkings are a legit contender to not only make it to Nationals but do some big things there as well.
However, McNair also knows nothing is going to be just handed to them.
“Yeah, the team has the bar set high, but I think every team does in playoffs because it’s a whole different animal and anything can happen,” he added. “As a team, we have goals set in place, but we know nothing’s given and we’ll have to work for everything we get, and it comes from the top down. Every guy wants to win, and playoffs is a special time of year. We have a good amount of age outs and we all want to do as much as we can to leave an impact.
“The whole team’s excited to get going but knows we have to take it one game at a time – the man at the top of Everest didn’t just get dropped there.”
The USPHL congratulates Kyle McNair, his family, the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings and Lawrence University for his commitment.