SUN Hockey Pool

McDonald blasts both sides

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

After a career that was as symmetrical as his trademark handlebar mustache, things remain unchanged for Lanny McDonald in retirement.

That is to say he's equally mad at both owners and players as a result of the NHL lockout.

McDonald, whose 500 regular-season goals in 1,111 games included several that affected the course of hockey history, was keynote speaker at last night's London Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction.

His disappointment over the hockey blackout was clear.

"I blame both sides. I blame ownership for letting it get out of hand and I blame the players because they knew the new collective bargaining agreement had to be worse than the last one," he said in an interview. "Why would you ever sit out one day and not find common ground? This is ludicrous. Not only have they lost momentum for cities like Calgary and Tampa Bay (Stanley Cup finalists) but for every NHL city."

The losses, McDonald feels, will be horrendous.

"They've gone from a $2-billion business to what might be $800 million or, if they're lucky, a $1-billion business when they get back. Not only that, look at the number of lives besides the players and owners that have been affected."

McDonald knows a little about lives in turmoil. An enormously popular Toronto Maple Leaf, he was central to a shock trade with the then- Colorado Rockies just at a time his wife was expecting imminently and his in-laws were visiting from the West.

"The timing couldn't have been worse. And when you're mathematically eliminated in Colorado in October, it's a little hard to get to the Stanley Cup," he said with a laugh.

Funny how things work out, though. He had a good time with coach Don Cherry in Denver ("I tease him to this day that he should thank God for Coach's Corner or he might have been fired 30 times").

A deal that brought him to Calgary Flames not only wound up with McDonald getting his hands on the Stanley Cup his 16th and final season but made him the toast of two towns, Calgary and Toronto.

The guy Calgary GM Cliff Fletcher said brought credibility to the franchise in the Edmonton Oilers' dominance of the 1980s scored the kind of goal historians term epic in the sixth and last game of the 1989 final against Montreal.

It was the go-ahead goal on a patented McDonald slapshot, and he remembers it vividly.

"I was so happy because I had taken a stupid penalty after missing a great chance in front. I said about 400 Hail Marys in the two minutes I was in the box. I came out of the box and we had an immediate three-on-two. (Hakan) Loob threw it over to (Joe) Nieuwendyk, Nieuwy put it right on my stick between (Chris) Chelios's stick and skate. We knew Patrick Roy went down trying to cover as much of the net as he could, and it was 'Go top shelf, young man.' "

A goal McDonald scored for the Leafs wasn't as epic, although it was for fans. That was in a 1978 quarter-final series against the New York Islanders. He clinched the series in overtime of the seventh game for a massive upset.

Careers can turn on odd things and McDonald's was no exception. Those of an age can recall when the Leafs' top junior pick floundered at first. Nobody could figure it out until his Medicine Hat junior trainer suspected his skates weren't being sharpened the way he did -- with little camber. Once Toronto trainers honed his with a flatter blade, he took off.

There remains a consistency in his life. He still works on behalf of the Special Olympics after 30 years, and that handlebar mustache will never go. ("If I cut it off, I'd have to hide out two years to grow another one.") Now a grandfather (of one-year-old Calder), he insists his pride and joy is fascinated by the mustache but never yanks it.


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