Family is extremely important to former Florida Everblade Brent McDonald, and as a hockey player, he formed a brotherly bond with his teammates.
McDonald, whose career with the Everblades spanned from 2000-07, played a prominent role on a pair of teams that reached consecutive Kelly Cup Finals.
Family is even more important to him now in running his business, MacDaddy’s. A sports bar in Fort Myers, MacDaddy’s is located in the former location of Don Haney’s Smokehouse.
The late Don Haney was the father of McDonald’s wife, Sonne Haney McDonald. The name of his business combines McDonald’s nickname (Mac or B-Mac) with honoring his father and Haney, who once ran four Don Haney’s Smokehouses in the area in his heyday.
“He was a great man and a wonderful entrepreneur,” McDonald said of Haney, who died of a heart attack in 2005. “Running this business is a way of keeping his memory alive.”
McDonald has become quite the entrepreneur in his own right. Immediately after retiring as a player, he started a hockey-exclusive training center called Ice Advantage. A native of a small town just north of Calgary, Alberta, McDonald saw a definite need for better training equipment for young players in Southwest Florida.
“I felt that if Florida was serious about developing top hockey players, they needed to have the same advantages of kids who train in Canada or the northern part of this country,” he said. “So at my business, we had skating treadmills, a shooting machine and all sorts of biometric conditioning devices we didn’t have down here.”
After two years of running the training center at Germain Arena, McDonald eventually sold it to a larger franchise called Athletic Republic. With Don Haney’s Smokehouse closing its Daniels Parkway location, McDonald set his sights on the restaurant business. MacDaddy’s maintained the good old-fashioned barbecue pit feel of Haney’s, but added a sports attitude. The restaurant has sports memorabilia (including several items from McDonald’s Blades days) and broadcasts the biggest sports events of the day on multiple TVs.
The Red Sox move to JetBlue Park was a boom for business, as MacDaddy’s is now centrally located between Hammond Stadium and JetBlue Park.
“March and April tends to be a crazy time for us,” he said. “From all the Red Sox and Twins fans that come in to people that watch the NCAA tournament to the Masters, we keep pretty busy.”
MacDaddy’s also proclaims to be southwest Florida’s home for Florida State Seminoles fans, which makes sense, since all of the Haneys went there. Don met his wife Enneis there, and Sonne graduated from FSU in 2005.
“We all bleed garnet and gold,” Sonne said. “And Brent has become a Florida State guy through marriage.”
Sonne loves talking about her father, and is happy her dad got to know Brent before he died.
“Brent was the first guy my dad actually approved of, so I knew right away he was a keeper,” she said. “Brent grew up with a lot of the same values my parents instilled in us. And he has the same drive and commitment to the restaurant business that my father had. My dad was an amazing father and he would be very proud of Brent.”
For Brent McDonald, one of the perks of running his own business is he can sneak out sometimes to spend quality time with his family. Daughter Maddon is 5, and son Lukas just celebrated his third birthday with his first pair of hockey skates.
“Honestly, I think these kids are born knowing how to play hockey,” Sonne said of Lukas and many of the other Everblades offspring. “He has had a hockey net and stick since he was one and now he’s been out on the ice with those skates, and he loves it.”
McDonald said he couldn’t imagine a better place to raise a family. His parents are now snowbirds, and his three brothers come down in February and March to get in multiple rounds of golf. And he and his family are able to make it back to Alberta every July.
“From Day 1, I saw how many great people there were down here,” he said. “I see a lot of repeat business from people I’ve met through my Everblades days. They come in on game days and it’s always nice to see them.”