As I settled in for a Bruins-Leafs playoff game, my cell phone lit up. Caller ID revealed John, a high school bud and former pitching ace at Amherst College. I picked up. He needed to talk Frozen Four, and demanded an answer. “How in the world did UMass land Cale Makar in the first place?” John isn’t much of a hockey fan, but he knows first-hand that UMass is no brand name in the world of college pucks. “Why not BC, BU or Michigan?”
Slightly embarrassed, I admitted to not knowing the whole story. The common narrative is that new coach Greg Carvel inherited a sinking ship at UMass back in 2016, one with a toxic culture and a bare cupboard. Bare, with the exception of the greatest college player since Paul Kariya (apologies to all you Jack Eichel fans). The story has it that “Carvy” wisely connected with the Makar clan within minutes of taking the job, re-staking the UMass claim on Cale. But it was the prior regime, under much-maligned coach John Micheletto, that did all the heavy lifting. They were the ones who convinced this once-in-a-generation player to commit to UMass. This story should be part of college hockey’s historical record, but it had been previously untold.
The next morning, I reached out to Gary Makar, Cale’s dad and his de facto guidance counselor. He’d been in a much-publicized hockey frenzy since the Frozen Four, but still found time to call back en route to the Calgary airport. He set the record straight.
“Our very first contact at UMass was with Joey Gasparini,” said the elder Makar. “Joey had been watching Cale right from Midget days.”