No Stanley Cup, no regrets for MacInnis
Vail, CO Colorado
ST. LOUIS ” Al MacInnis has no regrets about a 23-year career that will land him in the hockey Hall of Fame during induction ceremonies Monday. Consider this: The hard-shooting defenseman even enjoyed playing for Mike Keenan.
Keenan overhauled the Blues’ roster from 1994-96 in a failed effort to win a first Stanley Cup for the franchise. He was wise enough not to fool with MacInnis, who arrived in a trade on July 4, 1994.
“You know what? Any coach that played me as much as he did, I can’t say anything bad about him,” MacInnis said. “We had our run-ins and that’s OK, but when you’re a player all you’re looking for is ice time.”
The Blues came close a few times in the ’90s under Keenan, who constantly said the franchise needed to “embrace change,” and Joel Quenneville. St. Louis lost in the playoffs to eventual Cup winners Detroit, Dallas and Colorado.
“I’ve always said this about Mike Keenan: There’s probably no better coach when you win and there’s no more miserable coach when you lose,” MacInnis said. “There was not a whole lot in-between.
“But he played me lots and probably made me a little bit more mentally tough as well as a player. There’s a lot of stuff you’ve just got to let go in one ear and out the other.”
MacInnis is a member of one of the Hall’s strongest induction classes, with Mark Messier, Scott Stevens and Ron Francis also to be honored.
“To go in with this group of guys is pretty special,” MacInnis said. “They’re great ambassadors to the game and have made great contributions not only to their teams but to the league as well. It’s a great group of guys.”
MacInnis isn’t sweating the speech much, knowing he’ll be among family, friends and fans in Toronto. But he knows the butterflies won’t compare to pre-game jitters.
“It’s probably more like Game 7,” MacInnis said. “But you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t a little bit nervous. I want to enjoy it but I’m not going to get too worked up.”
The Blues will honor him again on Nov. 16 before a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“It would be interesting to take a poll in St. Louis for athletes and ex-athletes as to who is the most popular,” team president John Davidson said. “Al’s got to be right up at the top for what he did all those years, how much he’s meant to this city.
“He’s kind of a treasure for St. Louis.”
The 44-year-old MacInnis grew up in the tiny fishing village of Port Hood, Nova Scotia, never dreaming he could make a career out of hockey. He’s third in career scoring among defensemen with 340 goals and 1,274 points. The Blues retired his No. 2 jersey last year after a decade in which he set several franchise records, before being forced to retire by eye and shoulder injuries.
Davidson followed MacInnis’ career, first as a broadcaster and now as his boss. Since his retirement MacInnis has worked in the Blues’ front office, adding scouting expertise.
“To see him evolve, it was quite a remarkable thing,” Davidson said. “He developed into a great, great all-around player instead of just a player who was used on the power play.”
Now comes the ultimate honor for the 13-time All-Star who was seemingly never out of position, warding away opposing forwards with finesse rather than brute strength. His calling card, though, was a blistering slap shot.
Seven times he won the NHL’s hardest shot competition, a skill honed from countless hours of slamming pucks into sheets of plywood at a rink his father helped manage.
“There were times when I had blisters on both hands and I couldn’t hold a stick the next day,” MacInnis said. “Never did I think it would end up getting me into the Hall of Fame.
“I know I’m known for the shot, but it gave me a chance to play in the league.”