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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Ben Pope

Childhood friends MacKenzie Entwistle, Taylor Raddysh, Jason Dickinson amazed by Blackhawks reunion

Taylor Raddysh (left), MacKenzie Entwistle (center) and Jason Dickinson (right) are all Georgetown, Ontario, natives now playing for the Blackhawks. (Getty Images, AP Photos)

Nothing about the Toronto exurb of Georgetown, Ontario — population 42,123 — suggests a Blackhawks pipeline. It’s a typical Canadian town with a small downtown and a hockey rink nestled between strip malls and fast-food chains off the highway.

But unremarkable Georgetown is remarkably the hometown of three out of the Hawks’ nine Canadian players. Indeed, forwards MacKenzie Entwistle, Taylor Raddysh and Jason Dickinson all grew up there — and at roughly the same time, too.

“What are the odds of that?” Dickinson said. “I don’t even think you could compute that.”

When the Hawks acquired Dickinson from the Canucks two weeks ago, Entwistle and Raddysh actually tried — and failed — to do just that.

“Me and Raddysh started talking like, ‘Oh my god, this is crazy. [We had] two guys on one team, and now all of a sudden, we have three?’” Entwistle said. “We started doing the math. We looked up the population. In 2011, it was 40,000. We couldn’t find anything on the internet for 1999, because that was my birth year, but it must’ve been so small.

“We were shocked. We were excited, though, not only for us three but also for our town, our parents, our families, everyone that drove us to the rinks. It’s so cool.”

(For the record, based on the 290 Canadian players on NHL opening-day rosters and Canada’s population of 38 million, the probability of three Georgetown residents making the NHL is about 1-in-250 — and the probability of three playing for one given NHL team is about 1-in-8,000.)

Entwistle, at age 23, is the youngest of the bunch, with Raddysh, 24, a year older and Dickinson, 27, the eldest. As is the case in many smaller towns, however, there’s no shortage of ties between the trio — dating back long before their Hawks tenures.

Raddysh’s older brother Darren, a 26-year-old defenseman now playing for the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, played minor hockey with Dickinson. Dickinson’s younger brother Josh, a 24-year-old forward now playing in Sweden, grew up friends with Raddysh — they still occasionally play Xbox together).

Entwistle and Dickinson have coached at a local kids’ hockey camp together in recent years. And Entwistle and Raddysh grew up playing on the same lacrosse team. The list of connections goes on and on.

“[Taylor and I] were close,” Entwistle said. “I always make fun of him because he was the kid that just grew way faster than everyone. He was always a heavier-set kid. He was so good at lacrosse, it was nuts. He’d just drop his shoulder and score four or five goals a game. He was that good.”

Added Raddysh: “I was one of the bigger kids...[and] that’s where you could dominate. I was actually better at lacrosse than hockey, but I was only 10 years old.”

Both of them eventually had to pick one sport to focus on, and both ultimately chose hockey — although it wasn’t a completely straightforward decision for Entwistle in particular.

Even then, though, they ended up in the same Triple-A hockey program, the Toronto Marlboros, and occasionally played together when Entwistle was called up to the older team as an injury replacement.

“As we got older, we kind of lost touch a little bit — everyone gets on different teams and stuff — but now we’re back,” Entwistle said. “We’re just following each other.”

Meanwhile, Entwistle and Dickinson linked up about five years ago, they estimate, as two of a handful of instructors at Pasmas Hockey Development, a camp run by former Capitals draft pick and Georgetown native Rod Pasma.

“We range from ages 6 to 16, so we see all skill levels,” Dickinson said. “The kids are really receptive and want to learn. It’s nice because I was [once] that kid that was dying to learn. I see a lot of those kids and I’m like, ‘Yeah, this was me. I get it. They want to learn as much knowledge as they can.’”

Entwistle and Dickinson have gotten to know each other well from those two weeks together each August, but their friendship has been elevated to a new level this past week.

With Dickinson and his wife currently living out of a hotel while sorting out longer-term living arrangements — the trade out of Vancouver took them by surprise — Entwistle has served as their de facto Chicago tour guide and Uber driver.

“He picks me up every day right now, it seems,” Dickinson said. “He’s a good kid, and I’m learning a lot more about him now than I would’ve previously. We didn’t spend this much time together. It’s nice to learn more about his family and what he’s about outside the rink.”

While commuting to and from the United Center, of course there’s plenty of reminiscing to be done about old times in Georgetown. But years down the road, Entwistle, Dickinson and Raddysh will likely be able to reminisce just as much about their hard-to-fathom 2022 reunion on the Hawks.

“We can’t look back on it now, but in time, we’ll look back and say, ‘That was really crazy,’” Dickinson said. “I don’t know if anybody else from Georgetown could get to the NHL, and we had three on the same team.”

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