Here, a puffed-up version of the age-old debate: Was it the chicken or the egg? Or in this case, will the real Mac Engel please stand up?
Technically, the 38-year-old Texan sportswriter came first. Mac Engel has spent the last 14 years covering the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, women’s basketball, the Olympics, high school sports, and even amateur women’s judo. He also covered the Dallas Stars.
But in this serendipitous circumstance, hockey isn’t really the most remarkable connection the writer shares with Spokane Chiefs goalie Mac Engel, who hasn’t been alive much longer than 14 years.
First, it’s important to understand that this is more than two guys who share an uncommon name – and spell it the same way.
“It’s actually pretty hilarious,” the Chiefs netminder said.
“You cannot imagine how rare it is to find someone who spells my name verbatim,” Engel wrote about his namesake in a blog post for the Star-Telegram in Forth Worth, Texas. “It’s either “Mack”, “Matt”, “Mark” and/or “Engle” or “Ingle”.”
So it came to be that the sportswriter dedicated a blog to the hockey player.
The title of the post: The hottest hockey goalie prospect in the world is Mac Engel.
That’s a bit of a stretch, which both Engels – naturally – agree upon. Even if the entire scenario is a bit tongue-in-cheek, the sportswriter does keep an autographed photo of the goalie on his desk.
It reads: “To: Mac Engel. From: Mac Engel. You have a great name but are not as good lookin’.”
The story really begins with Chiefs director of communications Jay Stewart, who was holed up in the Chiefs front office last February watching a college football show on ESPN when the scribe appeared on the television. At about the same time, Engel’s wife – also a sports- writer – had been dinking around on google and sent her husband a text message that said, “Do you know you’re a goalie?”
Stewart received an email from Engel five minutes later.
“It was real creepy how fast it was,” Stewart said. “It literally wasn’t more than five minutes that went by after we saw him on TV.”
If Engel was quick to hit Stewart up for a little bit of information and his autographed photo, he was also somewhat hasty to put it aside in his mind. But as luck would have it, Engel received a text message at the end of January from two-time Stanley Cup champion and former NHL All-Star Bill Guerin, whom Engel covered when he played for the Stars in 2002-03.
Guerin, now a scout for the Pittsburgh Penguins, was at a Western Hockey League game in Spokane.
“I about fell out of my chair,” Engel said. “I never get texts from pro jocks.”
He took it as another sign and took to his blog.
“Since my organized athletic career ended because my middle school coach was jealous of me,” Engel wrote, “my dream of reaching any show is now carried via my namesake.”
Engel makes a good point when it comes to sharing the same name.
“What if I was a wife beater on Cops or something?” he said. “Or how about the (Baltimore) Ravens play-by-play guy Gerry Sandusky? Think about that for the Mac Engel up there.”
In his second season in Spokane, Engel isn’t focusing on what’s being said about him on a blog post in his honor. Engel is 22-14-1-2 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .893 save percentage. He may or may not start when the WHL playoffs begin next month, as he and Eric Williams are currently splitting time, but he’ll always have the elder Engel’s support.
“I guess I have a reason to keep playing hockey now,” he joked.
It could be inferred, then, that Engel – the writer – has a reason to follow the Chiefs.
“This interview is my Academy Award,” Engel joked. “It’s really no different than Brad Pitt getting an award for Moneyball. I’m a 38-year-old man – this is it. I’m just a hack.
“He’s the real Mac Engel.”