Boston College men’s hockey forward Marc McLaughlin has been a captain at every level he’s played at—his teammates at BC have elected him captain two seasons in a row. For McLaughlin, leadership comes as naturally as hockey.
“People gravitate toward him—he’s a natural leader,” BC head coach Jerry York said. “He works hard and sets a great example. … There’s an intrinsic quality about him where I want this guy as a leader.”
McLaughlin has seen his fair share of success in a BC uniform. He’s scored five game-winning goals, won the Hockey East Best Defensive Forward award, and won the Bernie Burke Outstanding Freshman Award.
A highlight reel and list of McLaughlin’s accomplishments during his time at BC wouldn’t show the complete picture. It couldn’t show his leadership on the ice and in the locker room, or how he inspires younger players with his behavior and work ethic. It would, however, be full of great moments on the ice that are inspirational enough even without the context of his leadership.
One such play came last January in an overtime game against New Hampshire with the Eagles down a player.
“You’re going into overtime killing a penalty and [McLaughlin] scores a short-handed goal to win it,” York recalled. “With three seconds left we took a penalty—tie ballgame. Now we’re going to be short for the first two minutes of OT and that breakaway goal was exciting.”
When the BC men’s hockey Twitter account posted the video of McLaughlin’s game-winner, it didn’t point to his individual effort. Instead, it read, “This guy wears a C for a reason,” referencing the captains’ patch sewn onto the front of his sweater.
As capable as he is of stepping up in big moments, McLaughlin’s biggest contribution to his team comes when the cameras aren’t rolling. Surprisingly, the UNH game-winner does not earn the spot of McLaughlin’s favorite moment as an Eagle. In fact, his most cherished memory has nothing to do with his individual success.
“When we won the regular season the past two years in a row now … that was special,” McLaughlin said. “To see how hard we worked and to have a little bit of success—that’s probably my favorite moment so far.”
In his three years as an Eagle, McLaughlin has tallied 44 points on 19 goals and 25 assists. Along with his aforementioned awards, he was selected as a Hockey East Third Team All-Star after his junior season last year and was a runner-up for the Len Ceglarski Individual Sportsmanship Award. In 2018—before he started at BC—McLaughlin was selected for the Curt Hammer Award, which recognizes a USHL player for outstanding performance skills, pride, and determination on and off the ice.
He was the captain of his high school and USHL teams before being voted BC’s captain for the last two years.
“He’s high quality, right through,” York said. “His family’s done a great job raising him. He’s a remarkable young guy.”
McLaughlin is the youngest sibling in a family of five. His dad, Walter, played high school hockey, while his sister Kristine and brother Sean played in college at the University of New England and Wentworth, respectively. Though his mother Jill was not a hockey player herself, Mclaughlin even credits her for teaching him to skate.
“I’m the youngest in my family, so I look up to all of them,” McLaughlin said. “They’re all involved in sports. How hard they work and how genuine they are as people—they’re really inspiring. I turn to them a lot in my life for guidance and they’re always supporting me. They’re definitely my role models.”
Though he comes from a hockey family, McLaughlin was never able to play with his siblings due to age differences. Instead, he had to look up to older players on his team for guidance on the ice—a role he now fills for younger players.
“As soon as I got here my freshman year I remember seeing Casey Fitzgerald, Michael Kim, and Chris Brown,” McLaughlin recalled. “Seeing how hard they work, how seriously they took everything, and how professional they were, and how they carry themselves off the ice—that’s the stuff that I learned immediately and started to replicate. … They definitely paved the way for me.”
Today, McLaughlin mirrors a similar style of leadership. Rather than actively coaching younger players, he lets his actions speak for themselves and hopes others will follow.
“My leadership style is to just lead by example, do the little things the right way, and compete as hard as I can,” McLaughlin said. “[I try to] be a good role model and set the standard for the younger guys so when they get to be a junior or a senior they’re hopefully doing the same things and competing and leading by example and creating the path for that next wave.”
For as humble as McLaughlin is, York makes clear just how important he is to the team.
“He is just a terrific role model for all our student-athletes,” York said. “He’s very conscientious about school [and] diligent about hockey requirements. … He’s a guy you want to get behind and follow.”
McLaughlin’s teammates are following him to what they hope will amount to an NCAA Championship run, but a group of high schoolers follows McLaughlin for a different reason.
“I coached a youth team in some summer tournaments—that was pretty fun,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a different perspective for sure. I was coaching 15-year-olds, and it’s cool to give back and give my perspective of the game. Hopefully they can learn some stuff. … We made it to the finals one weekend.”
Despite being the sole member of his family to attend BC, McLaughlin always seemed destined to become an Eagle. He grew up in North Billerica, Mass. and kept an eye on BC hockey growing up. He said he attended Beanpots as a fan and played in camps at BC, but it was not until a USHL showcase that his destiny came to fruition.
“As soon as [BC assistant coach Mike Ayers] asked me to come to BC, it was a no-brainer,” McLaughlin said. “Being a local guy, it’s everyone’s dream to play at BC. … It was a pretty easy decision.”
McLaughlin fell in love with the campus and school immediately, but it was not until he played in his first-ever collegiate game that he truly registered what the next four years of his life would hold.
“It was a packed crowd against Wisconsin, who was a good team that year, so it was an eye-opening first weekend of college hockey,” McLaughlin said. “That was where it hit me. … The kids were stronger and it’s just a different animal—a different beast.”
Three years later, McLaughlin has seen two regular-season championships and an abbreviated NCAA Tournament run. With all that he has accomplished already, there is still plenty more to be done in what could be his final season as an Eagle. McLaughlin has one year of eligibility remaining after this season, but what that year might hold is still unknown. Regardless of what McLaughlin’s future holds, the Eagles have their sights set on the upcoming season—and postseason.
“Losing in the NCAA Tournament to St. Cloud State hurt a lot,” McLaughlin said. “To grind all season to get to that point and then come up short—it’s definitely a learning experience. It’s gonna make us stronger going into this year and more motivated. … It definitely doesn’t sit well.”
Hockey is an emotional game, and McLaughlin recognizes the importance of balancing passion with level-headed play. Without dismissing the importance of success, McLaughlin also emphasized the importance of having fun.
“A big part of having a good team is not getting too high, not getting too low, and having that even-keel mentality,” McLaughlin said. “We try to come to the rink and have fun every day … [while] pushing each other to get better.”
McLaughlin’s leadership comes from his actions, and his love of hockey is clear even from brief observation. He has undoubtedly gone through highs and lows during his time at BC, and it is obvious that he has mastered processing the lows while cherishing the highs.
“It’s super fun,” McLaughlin said. “We have the best group of guys—it’s a blast to come to the rink every day. … That’s how you get better. You show up and you’re with your best friends and you get to compete with them, and then you get out there in games and you want to play for that guy. … It’s a pretty special culture that we have.”
BC’s 2021–22 season will be its first with fans back in Conte Forum since the middle of McLaughlin’s sophomore season. The Eagles build on the excitement of their audience, and this year’s McLaughlin-led team is capable of great things.
“You don’t get many chances to win a championship,” McLaughlin said. “You don’t get many stabs at an opportunity at the Garden to hoist the trophy. Don’t take those moments for granted.”
McLaughlin said he will cherish his last seasons in a BC uniform regardless of the outcome, but he—and the rest of the BC team—has his eyes on what the Eagles haven’t accomplished since 2012: a national championship.
“We’re still chasing one here,” McLaughlin said. “Senior year—we’re hoping that this is the year we can pull it all together.”
Featured Image byIkram Ali / Heights Editor
Other Images by Jess Rivilis / Heights Senior Staff and Ikram Ali / Heights Editor