Ben MacDonald got the full, modern-day draft hoopla. Dad Lane got a phone call, but he wasn’t home to take it. Everyone agrees grandfather Lowell is the best athlete in a family chock full of them, but he wasn’t initially drafted at all.

A third generation of MacDonalds had their NHL rights picked up July 7 when Ben, 18, was taken in the third round by the Seattle Kraken. Proud dad Lane was on hand in Montreal and delighted grandfather Lowell was watching from home.

As the seconds ticked by and Boston delayed the 91st overall pick, Weston, Massachusetts, native Ben thought he might be headed to his hometown Bruins. But the Kraken were offering Boston two picks for the chance to take him — the only deal they made that weekend.

“Having Seattle trade up for me was definitely really special,” Ben said. “It means a lot to me. Shows how the organization really wants me, and I’m going to do everything to prove to them that I was the right call.

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NHL All-Star Lowell McDonald was taken in an expansion draft and an intraleague draft but not an entry draft. During the Original Six era, Lowell signed a “C” form with Detroit and debuted with the Red Wings in 1961-62. It was the thrill of his life, but he was along for the ride.

“You were basically giving up your rights to make any choices,” Lowell, 80, said. “Everybody was so excited to be taken by an NHL team that nobody thought anything bad about it.


“With free agency, it’s a different world now. It’s much better for the kids, no question.”

Lowell is perhaps best known as one third of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ “Century Line” with Syl Apps and Jean Pronovost, named for the 100 goals the trio surpassed during the 1973-74 season.

Knee injuries plagued him throughout his career. He missed several seasons but managed a comeback and was awarded the 1973 Masterton Trophy, awarded to the “player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”

MacDonald retired after 506 games, 180 goals and 210 assists, becoming an educator and coach. He might have played to age 52 like his mentor in Detroit, Gordie Howe, but his knees gave out on him.

“Gordie could have played until he was 65. He was an unbelievable situation,” Lowell said. “Anything you heard about him or read about him is absolutely the truth. Gordie was an unbelievable player and an unbelievable person, too.”

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The legends Lowell rubbed elbows with sometimes met his sons, Lowell Jr. and Lane. They went with their father to pregame skates on weekends at Pittsburgh’s Civic Center, nicknamed “The Igloo.”


One morning, Lane said, they assumed the ice was available before a game against the Boston Bruins. Lowell’s boys hopped on and ran into Bobby Orr. Lowell hurried out of the locker room to apologize.

“Lowell, don’t worry. This will be the best competition I’ll face all day,” Orr said, according to family lore.

When Lane arrived home one day, Lowell got to tell him that the Calgary Flames had called. Lane had been drafted in the third round in 1985. The jersey arrived a week later.

Lane still holds the Harvard records for career goals (111), power-play goals (52) and short-handed goals (12). He took the year off to represent the U.S. at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games alongside Mike Richter, Brian Leetch and others.

But like his father, Lane was battling debilitating injuries. Trauma-induced migraines and concussions would cause him to lose vision. He almost couldn’t compete in the Olympics or finish his college career, but he did both, winning the Hobey Baker as the top NCAA player in the country in 1989 and helping the Crimson to a national title.

His rights were traded to the Hartford Whalers, where Kraken general manager Ron Francis was the star. It wasn’t a guarantee, but the Whalers offered him a carrot: a one-way contract and the suggestion that he could play with Francis.


“The opportunity to play with Ron Francis almost overcame the rational judgment of doing the right thing for my long-term health,” Lane said.

In the end, he didn’t sign. He spent part of a year playing in Europe then retired.

“My dream had always been — like Ben’s dream, like my father’s dream — to play in the NHL, and I really wanted to,” Lane said. “I also knew I had the rest of my life to live.

“To this day, I wish I had the opportunity to see how I would have done.”

Lane manages investments for a division of Fidelity and coached Ben and several of his friends from ages 7 to 16. Lane skates weekly at Harvard with a group of former Boston-area college players who have let Beanpot bygones be bygones. When Ben and his sisters were young, Lane would let them skate around on the ice beforehand, as he once did at the Igloo.

“Hockey has done extraordinary things for me,” Lane said. “And it all worked out.”


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Lane said there was no pressuring Ben into the family pastime, but he took to it on his own. Getting him up for school is slow going, but for hockey it’s no problem.

When the grandparents made the trek down to Florida from their summer home in Nova Scotia, they would stop and visit. Lowell — “Cappie” to his grandkids — was an NHL forward, but in Ben’s backyard draft, he became a goalie.

“I’d beg him,” Ben said. “I don’t know how badly he wanted to go in between the pipes. I’d force him to get his tennis shoes on and give him a goalie stick and I’d shoot the tennis ball out there.”

Ben described himself as a 200-foot playmaking center who makes those around him better. Lowell said Lane instilled good skating habits, which have been on display at Kraken development camp this week. Dad is still faster, Ben said — for now.

“Still working on it, though. I have some time,” Ben said.

Ben is a late bloomer, Lane said, and at 6-foot, 181 pounds, is still filling out. His hockey sense, physical play and shot are an improvement on the previous generation’s. The plan is for Ben to play for the West Kelowna Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League next season, then follow his dad and sister to Harvard.


Lane and Ben caught a Kraken game on their way to West Kelowna in March and heard good things from family friend and Seattle forward Ryan Donato, who also played at Harvard.

“(Francis) runs a program pretty well from what I’ve seen over the years, running into him at other places,” Lowell said. “I’ve got a lot of faith that Ron’s going to do what’s right for Ben.

“Hopefully the Kraken will end up with a good hockey player there.”