On April 13, Cale Makar was in Buffalo, New York, playing for the University of Massachusetts in the NCAA national title game. (They lost.) A wild 48 hours later, the defenseman scored a goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Here’s how he went from the collegiate championship to one of the most memorable NHL debuts of all time—in two days.

Editor’s note: Responses were edited for length and clarity.

Cale Makar scores his first NHL goal against the Calgary Flames. Photo by Cal Sport Media/Alamy Stock Photo

John Leonard, forward and teammate on the UMass hockey team: “After we lost [the national championship], we came back to the hotel, and he told all of us what was going on. We got to watch him sign. It was the first time most of us had seen something like that.”

Scott Bartlett, Cale’s Sports Consulting Group agent: “The question [with Colorado] became, ‘Hey, when do you want him out there?’ They said: ‘As soon as possible.’ ”

Gary Makar, Cale’s father: “Then it got crazier. We picked Cale up at 8 a.m. the next morning to drive across the Canadian border and change his visa status from student to worker. The customs people might’ve recognized him. I think we got preferential treatment.”

Cale Makar: “We drove back to Buffalo and found out my flight was delayed, which meant I wouldn’t make it to Denver that night. The Avs coordinator folks got me a flight from Toronto. So we hightailed it to Toronto.”

Gary: “It was his first time in first class. He texted us the menu saying, ‘Should I get all of this?’ ”

Cale: “I didn’t know if I was going to play [in Game 3 of the series against Calgary] until 10 a.m. on Monday. After morning skate, Bednar told me I would.”

Jared Bednar, head coach of the Colorado Avalanche: “Part of me felt we should just get him in the lineup and see what he can do. If it’s too much, then we could back him off. Also, we lost Sam Girard to injury, so there was a place for him.”

Erik Johnson, defenseman for the Colorado Avalanche: “He hopped right in there in the first period. It was sink or swim. But it was obvious he was ready to swim. And then came the goal.”

Cale: “It was a neutral zone transition. [Nathan] MacKinnon was driving wide, and I was behind him. Fortunately, he found me, and I had good position on a Calgary defender. I was able to put the puck into the five hole.”

Bartlett: “I legitimately jumped off the couch. My wife knew nothing about hockey when I married her and still doesn’t know much about it. But she’s gotten to know Cale a little and that’s probably the most excited I’ve ever seen her get about a client’s success. We both jumped off the couch and high-fived.”

Greg Carvel, UMass head hockey coach: “I was on a flight to Florida with my family and we landed, and my daughter said: ‘Oh my God, Dad, Cale scored!’ She got the clip for me. My reaction wasn’t shock. I was real happy it happened quickly for him. Those expectations can sometimes be heavy. ”

Cale: “It was a special moment. But we were still in the middle of a playoff game that we needed to win. That brings you back to reality pretty quick.”

[Read More: The Inside Story of the Colorado Avalanche’s Historic Turnaround]

This article was originally published in 5280 September 2019.
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan is the former digital editor of 5280.com and teaches journalism at Regis Jesuit High School.