Taylor Makar: More than just Cale's big little brother
He followed his brother's skate grooves to Brooks and now UMass-Amherst. He's hoping to stay in them ultimately all the way to Colorado
During one of his games with the Brooks Bandits last season, Taylor Makar was being constantly badgered by a smaller player who was trying to goad him into a fight. When you’re 6-foot-3, almost everybody is smaller than you, but this guy maybe came up to his collarbone. While exchanging pleasantries with his aggressor during one stoppage in play, Makar held his arm straight out in front of him. When his father, Gary, asked him about the exchange after the game, Taylor gave a clear example of the difference between himself and his famous brother. “He said, ‘You know those signs at the amusement parks that say you have to be so tall?’ ” Gary recalled. “ ‘The guy wanted to fight me and I put out my hand and I said, ‘I don’t want to fight you. Because you have to be this tall to fight me.’ ”
Cale and Taylor Makar are separated by two years and four months. They came from the same parents, grew up in the same house in Calgary and were instilled with identically strong core values, the most prominent being that how you react to adversity and what you do about it will be the primary factor in determining your destiny. Cale was named after Cale Hulse, who played for the Calgary Flames when Gary was doing some business with the team. Taylor is named after Colonel George Taylor of the Planet of the Apes movies, a take charge guy, portrayed by Charlton Heston, who was thrust into a leadership role. (Just for the record, Heston’s politics and ardent support of the National Rifle Association are not shared by the Makar family. “Oh my god, that’s the opposite of us,” Gary said.)
You’d think that Cale and Taylor Makar would be cut from the same cloth, but in so many ways they’re different. On the ice, Cale is a right-shot defenseman and Taylor is a left-shot center. Taylor is a huge personality full of energy, while Cale is so reserved he often raises his eyebrows higher than his stick after he scores a goal. One was drafted fourth from the top of the draft (Cale in 2017), the other fifth from the bottom (Taylor at 220th overall in 2021). Last season with Brooks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Taylor had 63 penalty minutes, which was more than Cale had in his two seasons with the same junior team. And Taylor did it in 16 games. “He’s got the charismatic and more humorous side of the family for sure,” Cale said of his brother. “He’s a pretty special breed. If people are getting in his face, he’s not going to shy away from it.”
And thanks to a whirlwind of events over the course of about 24 hours in July, Cale and Taylor Makar could one day find themselves playing for the Colorado Avalanche together. On July 23, the first day of the draft, Cale signed a six-year contract extension with the Avalanche for $54 million, a deal that was announced the next day. Then just a few hours after that announcement, the Avs used the last of their four picks in the draft to select Taylor, who was in the dining hall at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst where he was training for the summer, when he found out. “I would say I was quite a bit happier for my brother,” Cale said, no easy task when you’ve just been set up for life. “It was quite a relief day, that’s for sure.”
There might be a temptation to think that the Avalanche taking Taylor put the bow on a feel-good story, done to reward the 2020 Calder Trophy winner and 2021 first-team all-star for his long-term belief in the franchise. That also might be where the mind goes when it considers that Taylor, who followed in his brother’s skate grooves at Brooks, will be beginning his first season at UMass, where Cale starred for two seasons and won the Hobey Baker Award as the most outstanding player in U.S. college hockey in 2019. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Cale said he had no idea the Avs were selecting his brother and he never once spoke with anyone in the organization about him. Taylor had talked with a number of other teams prior to the draft, but the Avalanche were not one of them. The Avalanche had a first-, second- and third-round pick, then nothing until the seventh. When you have only four picks in a draft, you have to make every one of them count. “It’s the National Hockey League,” said Wade Klippenstein, the Avalanche’s director of amateur scouting. “You don’t just pick guys because it’s a good storyline. “I like the way he’s trending.”
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While they might be different off the ice, there are some similarities to their career paths. Neither brother was a star in minor hockey in Calgary – Cale wasn’t even invited to try out for a 14-and-under AAA team because he was too small – but each blossomed in his junior years. Both played and starred for the Brooks Bandits before going to UMass-Amherst, where Taylor will begin this season as a freshman. Every time he comes out of the team’s dressing room, he’s confronted with a 10-foot floor-to-ceiling mural of his brother, who just happens to be a hockey legend there, accepting the Hobey Baker. It doesn’t faze the younger Makar, who has learned to play in his brother’s shadow. He said there were pictures of Cale all over the Brooks dressing room. “Every day I see it when I’m walking out to the ice and I have a little chuckle for sure,” Taylor said. “I’ve joked with the guys that if he ever treats me badly, I’ll just poke a hole into one of his teeth or something.”
Not that he would ever actually do that to an opponent on the ice or anything, but Taylor does have a competitive streak that is, let’s say, overt. While he and his brother are both super competitive, Cale’s fire burns within, while Taylor’s is out there for everyone to see. Last season he had 63 PIM in just 16 games, which was second in the AJHL. One of the reasons Taylor was named captain of the Brooks Bandits was his willingness to stand up for his teammates. Cale reckons that might be in part because when the two played on the outdoor rink in the backyard on mini-sticks in the house, he never, ever let his little brother win, “then he’d try to fight me after.” Asked who would come out with the puck in a corner battle between him and Taylor, Cale said, “Oh, I’ll still win that puck battle regardless of how old we’ll ever be, but I’ll come out with a few bumps and bruises.”
The best thing for Taylor is that, at the age of 20, he has four years to develop with one of the best programs in the country. Like the Avalanche, UMass coach Greg Carvel could not afford to give up a scholarship just for a feel-good story. Carvel had been tracking Taylor for his junior hockey years and was very wary of having Taylor think he would be given a scholarship just because of his last name. While Cale is a world-class skater, Taylor gets around the ice very well for a big man and both of them think the game at an elevated level. “Colorado called me late in the day he was drafted and they said, ‘We’re thinking of taking Taylor. What are your thoughts?’ ” Carvel said. “ ‘We know he’s a bit of a project, but do you think he has what it takes?’ And I said, ‘I do.’ I see how he works out in the weight room, I see the drive he has when he does battle drills on the ice and in skill sessions. When Cale was a sophomore, I’m really close with Gary Makar, and he said, ‘I’m going to tell you Greg, Cale is a good player, but Taylor is the one who has the real drive.’ ”
The best-case scenario is that Taylor plays at least three years at UMass, possibly even four, then might be ready to make the step to the NHL to join his brother. Worst-case scenario is that Taylor gets an education and plays a high level of hockey. In the phone call between the brothers just after Taylor was drafted, Cale said that was when they had their “aha moment” and let themselves dream of one day playing on the same team in the best league in the world. There is no guarantee that will happen. After all, seventh-round picks rarely make the NHL. But when you have a big centerman who can skate and actually goes looking for confrontations, maybe, just maybe, you have something there. Cale and Taylor will try not to think about it for a couple of years and go about their business, with Taylor playing college hockey and finding his game and Cale possibly winning Norris Trophies (and who knows, maybe even the Hart) and Stanley Cups with the Avalanche. But there could be a day well down the road when their dreams just might become a reality. “I told him to get another bedroom for me because I want to be his roommate,” Taylor said. “I’m really proud of him. It’s cool to call him my brother.”
No one asked your opinion Ryan
Oh Ken your such a liberal pussy. Why in fuck would you even have the need to mention the parents stance on guns. Go fuck yourself Ken.