Devin McDonald ’19 appreciated playing pro and finding his place in a European culture.
By Brett Ford
Of all the student-athletes in colleges around the nation, very few earn the opportunity to go pro. Former NCAA Division III Player of the Year and Geneseo men’s ice hockey goalie Devin McDonald ’19 was one of several former Knights to play professionally abroad.
A few months after graduating from Geneseo with a degree in business administration, McDonald signed a professional contract with the Cometes de Meudon, a French professional team just southwest of Paris, joining teammates Arthur Gordon ’19 and Anthony Marra ’19. He and his former Geneseo teammates led the Cometes to an outstanding 2019-2020 season, culminating with a playoff berth. McDonald started 18 games, recording a 2.38 goals against average and a pair of shutouts.
In addition to his success on the ice, McDonald enjoyed experiencing the culture of the Parisian suburbs and worked to assimilate to the European lifestyle.
“In France, people greet each other no matter if they know one another or not,” he says. “Our apartment was outside of the tourist areas, so very few people in the area spoke English, but I worked on learning greetings and short sayings to greet the neighbors so I could be respectful of the culture. It was a small thing, but I like to think it made a big difference.”
McDonald was able to spend some time traveling to landmarks in Paris and throughout Europe. “We lived only 15 minutes from the Eiffel Tower, which allowed for us to hit all the big attractions: The Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Palace at Versailles, the Lafayette Galleries and many others,” he says. “We visited Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and even spent Christmas in Prague (Czech Republic). It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Inspired by Geneseo Ice Hockey’s mantra “‘Love, Serve, Care,” McDonald chose to give back to the Meudon community by giving goalie lessons to local youth hockey players. It helped foster a sense of belonging for the former Geneseo netminder. He says the experience with the French youngsters was much like his time spent with the Livingston Blues Youth Hockey Club.
“It was definitely rewarding,” he says. “Most of the time, demonstrations were better than a thousand explanations, and the kids were very motivated to learn despite the language barrier.”
McDonald, Marra and Gordon were three of just six players on the Meudon roster whose primary language was English, so communicating with teammates and coaching staff was difficult at first. “We did our best to learn (French) quickly,” says McDonald. “I learned basics and a few hockey-related terms. My French-speaking teammates helped a lot, just being around them on the ice and in the locker room, but I needed translations from time to time.”
The Knights alumni hurdled the inherent language barrier to find success on the ice as well as a sense of community away from the rink.
“I think the most rewarding part of the experience was being accepted into the culture,” McDonald says. The Cometes de Meudon had just earned an important win on home ice in front of many of the teams’ family and friends, and organized a large team celebration afterward.
“We did traditional ‘raclette’ and sat around with all the native French players and their families and ate cheese and bread,” he says. “I truly felt like I was a part of the community and it reminded me of times at Geneseo hanging out with my friends and family after a game at the Ira S. Wilson Arena.”
McDonald returned to the United States in 2020, but remains in the hockey world as the assistant men’s ice hockey at Oswego. “I truly enjoyed my time abroad, but I’m really excited for this new experience as a coach,” he says.
Over 30 Geneseo men’s ice hockey graduates have gone on to play professional hockey domestically, while 16 Ice Knight alumni have played professionally abroad, traveling to play in Sweden, Germany, France and Japan.