Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 05/13/11 at 01:57 AM ET
The Hurricanes organization got some bad news on Thursday night. Donnie MacMillian, known as “Donnie Mac” passed away at the age of 52. He was riding his mountain bike when he suddenly died. According to the News & Observer, he was discovered by another group of riders, but it was too late.
Donnie Mac was the ice tech and building superintendent at the RBC Center. He was the only building superintnedent the RBC has ever had, and he’d been with the team even before the move to North Carolina. He was hired as a Zamboni driver for the Hartford Whalers in 1993 after doing the same in the American League. He moved with the team and was offered the position. He was also given the opportunity to live at the RBC Center, which made it perfect for him. Throughout every season, he literally lived in an RV in the parking lot of the RBC Center.
Living in an RV in the parking lot made him quirky. Being really really good at his job made him well-respected around the league. With the RBC Center being a multi-purpose arena and with the heat and humidity playing a major factor in the quality of the ice, he always did a fantastic job of keeping the ice in tip-top shape. He was behind the design of a new ultra-high tech revamp to the ice resurfacing machines in the RBC Center. Under his guidance, the Hurricanes were the first NHL team to employ laser technology to ensure that the ice is perfectly flat. It’s all pretty technical, but here’s a cool article about it.
“The laser tells me what the thickness is, and it automatically adjusts the blade (on the Olympia) down to cut the ice and levels the ice to one inch from one end to the other,” MacMillian said. “It flattens it right out. The ice is perfectly flat to five-thousands of an inch, and all over the sheet.”
The surface at the RBC Center was Donnie Mac’s baby, and he was always there, driving the Olympia, making repairs to the ice or to the glass. Sleeping in the parking lot. Never more than a few hundred feet away from his baby.
The Hurricanes released a three sentence statement:
It is a very sad day for our organization. A person that was a big part of the Hurricanes has passed on suddenly. Donnie will be missed by everyone whose life he touched, both personally and professionally.
Indeed. Donnie will be missed.
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David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.