Feel-good story of the year?

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

ANAHEIM -- Steve MacIntyre has been waiting his whole life for this game.

He rode a lot of buses, jammed his six-foot-six frame into a lot of commercial airplane seats and traded punches with more hungry tough guys than he cares to remember for this chance.

So, while most people wouldn't consider a road tilt in Anaheim and a possible fight with George Parros to be the best day ever, it's going to rank right up there for the big-hearted 28-year-old.

"It's kind of a dream come true, really," said the 265-pound heavyweight from Saskatchewan. "It's pretty much an honour. You toil in the minors for this long and they give you a chance to play your first NHL game, it feels like a big accomplishment."

It is when you've spent eight seasons in the minors, bouncing from the Bay City Blizzard and Muskegon Fury to the Jacksonville Barracudas and Quad City Mallards.

NO EASY MILES

Those weren't easy miles, either. It's not like MacIntyre was a goal scorer who hadn't quite found his trigger. All those minor league nights meant fight after fight against the other team's toughest guy. Fighting to stay on top, fighting to protect his teammates, fighting to fire up the crowd, fighting for no other reason than another heavyweight rolled into town thinking he was tougher. Basically the same role enforcers play in the NHL, only he was slugging it out in remote outposts for 10% of their money.

That's dedication.

But it only goes so far when it means being away from your wife and children all the time for the same money 9-to-5ers make without having to take a single punch.

MacIntyre ran into so many dead ends in his quest for the NHL that he thought more than once about dropping the gloves forever and moving on to a teaching career.

"I've been at this for a while," he said. "And in the back of my mind all these years it's been like 'What am I doing? Am I spinning my wheels? Am I still able to play this game? Am I going to get a chance?'

"So it's a tremendous feeling going in and being a part of a club like the Oilers and playing your first NHL game."

All those times MacIntyre felt like quitting, it was his father who told him to keep going.

"He said 10 years down the road are you going to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say you gave it your all? I had a tough time with (walking away from unfinished business).

"I was 25 years old at the time and I told myself if I wasn't playing in the NHL by the time I was 28, maybe it was time to move on."

He turned 28 in August, and a few weeks later got his big break from the team he grew up cheering for.

"It's a great story," said head coach Craig MacTavish, who can't help but cheer for the guy. "He's kind of endeared himself to everybody, including our players. You can't help but admire a guy like that who's so passionate ... and loves the Oilers. It's a great story; hopefully it's one that he can live up to."

He's trying.

POUNDED VANDERMEER

In MacIntyre's first game of the preseason, he solidified his opportunity by demolishing Jim Vandermeer in a game where the Flames couldn't turn tail fast enough when they saw him coming. It's a much-needed element the Oilers have been missing since Georges Laraque left.

MacTavish hasn't said for sure that MacIntyre's in tonight, but he's been skating on the fourth line in practice all week and if they're not going to dress him against a team that's always near the top of the NHL in fighting majors, they never will.

That means his first regular season NHL fight could come against Parros, a six-foot-five, 232 pounder who's been at this a long time.

"He's big and tough and he's good at what he does," said MacIntyre, who would love to try Parros on for size. "He's the tough guy and I'm trying to make a name for myself, so you have to be a little amped up for it, but you can't be stupid. You can't go around looking for it because if you look for it the two referees are going to be looking at you. You just have to play the game and see how it goes."


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