February 28, 2012
Chopper a cut above the rest
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Some people believe it took too long for the Calgary Flames to honour Al MacInnis.
But the timing might have been perfect.
While the former Flames defenceman known for his booming slapshot and Conn Smythe Trophy capture in 1989 has already seen his jersey retired in St. Louis — where he finished his stellar NHL career and became a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame — his four children are now old enough to really understand and enjoy the history of how his career got started in Calgary.
“I was fortunate to play with two great organizations,” MacInnis said after the Monday night ceremony taking place before puck-drop between the Flames and the visiting St. Louis Blues. “This night is very, very special for a number of reasons.”
With wife Jackie, sons Carson (20), Ryan (16) and Riley (10) and daughter Lauren (13) by his side on the Saddledome ice surface during a pre-game ceremony Monday night, the Port Hood, N.S., product was excited about the fact his kids could truly comprehend what was happening as their dad became the first member of the franchise’s Forever a Flame program.
They watched a banner with his image and number raised to the rafters and paid close attention to a pair of videos played during the event.
“Even my youngest, who’s only 10, if you’d seen the smile on his face when he was watching the last video there, it was ear to ear,” MacInnis said with a grin afterward. “My children, they’re going to carry that for the rest of their lives.
“With a night like tonight, I think they really got a better grasp on what my Calgary career was all about. With technology today, my older boys kid me around. There are a couple of things out there on YouTube.
“But when they see a video like that and when you see raising a Stanley Cup over your head — they have dreams, too — hopefully someday, they can live the same ones.”
MacInnis’ dream started in Calgary when the Flames claimed him 15th overall in the first round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft.
He went on to earn eight all-star nods in 13 seasons with the team before moving on to St. Louis for the ’94-95 season. He was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner when the Flames earned their only Stanley Cup championship in 1989.
He terrorized goaltenders with his legendary slapshot.
Many of those efforts were played in the last video of Monday’s ceremony.
“Actually, when you go through it, you remember most of them,” MacInnis said with a laugh. “When you watch it, you realize that shooting the puck was a huge part of my game, obviously. People ask me if I kind of regret having that as a stigma. It gave me a chance to play in the National Hockey League. Everybody has a calling card. Everybody wants that opportunity to play in the National Hockey League and show me what they’ve got. The shot gave me that chance.
“Did I have a lot of work to do in other parts of my game? Absolutely. I was lucky enough to have great coaches along the way that showed patience and worked with me after practice, hours on end, to become a dependable defenceman.”
He became one of the best, winning a Norris Trophy with the Blues in ’99.
“For a while there, they labeled me the best player to ever come out of Nova Scotia,” MacInnis added.
“I think it lasted six weeks until there was a young guy named Sidney Crosby came out of Cole Harbour.”
On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane