Nov 9, 2018, 2:04 PM EST
This feature appears in the Notre Dame-Florida State Game Day Magazine.
A number of Notre Dame athletic teams are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year and the Monogram Club is catching up with Monogram winners from those sports to get their reflections from their time as a student-athlete and how that impacted their lives.
Mike McNeill (’88, hockey) was a three-time team MVP and two-time captain for the Notre Dame hockey team, which is celebrating 50 seasons as a varsity program. His 198 career points (83 goals, 115 assists) currently rank fifth in Notre Dame history. McNeill graduated in 1988 with a degree in finance and then played professionally for 12 years, including stints in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks and Quebec Nordiques. His father, Tim McNeill, was an assistant coach on Notre Dame’s first varsity team in 1968-69.
McNeill currently is the programming and instruction manager at Notre Dame’s Compton Family Ice Arena. Last spring, he was inducted into the Indiana State High School Hockey League Hall of Fame. McNeill received the honor for his many contributions to youth hockey in northern Indiana, including his work at Notre Dame.
What are your first memories of Notre Dame hockey?
“I was two-and-a-half years old when we moved here from Winona, Minnesota. Growing up, I was a rink rat. I was at the rink a lot and able to see the players. I was in awe of them because they were college hockey players. When the ice was available, I was able to get out there and take advantage of that ice time, which is what we always say is the best teacher around. Sometimes I’d be out there with my dad and a lot of times I’d just be on my own.”
How did being a Notre Dame student-athlete impact your life the most?
“I was thankful to be a student-athlete and receive an education. I’m also thankful that I’m able to still be around this University and contribute to the student-athletes who we get to work with on our Notre Dame team, people in the community and our visitors. They get to take advantage of not only this building (Compton Family Ice Arena), but our entire campus.
“This facility can offer a lot to our community; not only to our local young hockey players, but to players across the country. It’s special to see people come here and be in awe and then be able to realize they get to play in this building.”
What are your favorite memories from your time at Notre Dame?
“It’s the friendships. I have a group of hockey buddies that I’m still in touch with and that’s pretty cool all these years later. Also, having the relationship with (former head coach) Lefty (Smith) and getting to know him. I knew him when he coached with my dad, but then getting to know him after that was special. That was a special relationship that I think about a lot. There are a lot of good memories. There’s also a lot of good people, which is even better.”
You’ve been around the Notre Dame hockey program for a long time. From the updated facilities, to the sustained success on the ice, how does it make you feel as an alum of the program?
“Coach (Jeff) Jackson does a great job of recognizing players of all eras. He makes everyone feel like they contributed in some way to where the program is at now. There was a big focus during last summer’s (50th season) reunion of trying to bring the group together. I have a ton of great memories from playing over there (in the Joyce Center) and I just bring those over here (to the Compton Family Ice Arena). Some people say, ‘Don’t you wish you were able to play here (at Compton)?’. Well, maybe, but we played over there and there were a lot of good times and cool things that happened over there. We still continue to see that the student-athletes are good, quality kids, who appreciate the amenities they have and the facility they have.”
What is the most satisfying part of working with youth hockey and growing the game?
“The position I’m in, I don’t really coach a specific team so I get to visit with everybody. There are so many lessons that in a calm, positive and confident way, our staff can promote to our young kids. We’re thankful that they’re coming here and we want them to come to us and ask questions. We want to help them and be their mentors. We want to show them what’s right and what’s wrong. We also want to show them that it’s important to be active. As they get older and become better players, we can look at what they’re eating and drinking and what they’re doing between games. It’s an opportunity to embrace the role because some people might be looking up to you, so take advantage of that and promote a positive message. Be part of their progression as they grow older.”