Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 11/06/07 at 06:30 PM ET
Al MacInnis, along with fellow inductees, Ron Francis, Mark Messier, Scott Stevens and Jim Gregory, will be honored at the 2007 Induction Celebration on Monday, Nov. 12 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Below is the transcript from a media conference call with MacInnis earlier today. A video of his career highlights is also provided.
Al played in the NHL for 23 seasons. Specifically, 1416 games, during which time he recorded 340 goals and 934 assists for 1274 points, placing him 31st on the all-time NHL Points List. He won the Stanley Cup of Calgary in 1989 when he was also named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. In 1999 he won the Norris Trophy as top Defenseman of the league. And he also appeared in 12 National Hockey League All-Star Games.
On Monday, along with Ron Francis, Mark Messier, former teammate Scott Stevens and Jim Gregory, Al will be formally inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Q. At any point during your playing days did you ever think it was possible that this day would happen?
AL MACINNIS: Well, I think like most players, you don’t think about the Hall of Fame. I think, you know, growing up you think about different things, maybe winning a Stanley Cup or a gold medal. I don’t know if anybody really sits back and thinks that you’re going to get in the Hall of Fame.
I think there is such a timeline there where the longevity that you play and how fortunate you are to play with the teams, the coaches you have and your teammates. I don’t know if it really hits you until you get the call from the selection committee saying you did get inducted into the Hall of Fame. And that was certainly a special day. But you think about it a little bit, but you’re just very unsure if it will ever happen.
Q. You played on some special teams during your career. What is your proudest moment in your opinion?
AL MACINNIS: Without a doubt is ‘89 and winning the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames, and the team that we had there and the coaching staff. You play this game to win and to win the Stanley Cup. I would have loved to win more than one, but looking back over my career, I feel very fortunate.
There are a lot of great players that don’t get a chance to win one. To think that we won one in ‘89 was no question the highlight of my career.
Q. Where do you rank the gold medal?
AL MACINNIS: It is certainly second. Again, I’m thinking back when you’re growing up playing street hockey, the Stanley Cup was your number one goal. Then all of a sudden, years later they allowed professionals to play in the Olympics. And without a doubt it was a great accomplishment. Any time you put on a jersey representing your country, there is pride and accomplishment and expectations. To win a gold medal in Salt Lake was definitely a close second.
Q. I guess the curiosity is now striking me because it’s getting closer now. You’ve known for a while that you were going to be in, but it’s getting closer. I was curious how you’re handling the days leading up to this. Are you getting nervous about speaking and giving your speech? Are you getting nervous about the day itself? Does someone get nervous about this stuff?
AL MACINNIS: Well, you know, when I think about it, I get a little nervous. But, you know, I’m hoping once I get there and you’re amongst family or amongst friends, people that have helped you and inspired you along the way and helped you in different parts of your life, I think that’s what you’ve got to.
You’ve got to realize that you have to enjoy it when you get there. I don’t think you can get too worked up about it. Yes, you can get a little nervous and you have butterflies. But I pretty much had my speech all ready, and I feel comfortable with it. And you know, I’m hoping once I get there and get settled in and see everybody, I think the enjoyment will come out rather than getting too worked up about it.
I’ve talked to other people that have gone through it, that’s what they keep telling me. You’ve got to go there, don’t be so worried about it. You’re amongst friends and enjoy it, it’s a great weekend.
Q. How long have you had the speech ready?
AL MACINNIS: I’m still crossing a couple T’s, and dotting a few I’s here. I think it’s one of those ones where you don’t want to miss anybody that’s been very important in your life and your hockey career. You want to make sure you touch on certain different ?? all areas of your hockey career from your youth to your parents and all the way through to the end.
When you play 23 years there’s a lot of help along the way and a lot of different people, and you want to make sure you touch on the most important parts.
Q. You talked about the joys of winning the Stanley Cup and the Olympic gold medal. I was just wondering if you could talk about how different those experiences are? Or if there are any similarities, what are those similarities? What kind of feeling do you get when the achievement has been accomplished?
AL MACINNIS: Well, I think with the Stanley Cup it’s such a longer, tougher grind. It’s two months of the hardest, toughest, most ?? almost the most competitive hockey you can play for two months. Obviously, it’s draining not only physically, but emotionally. And, you know, you’re playing for your city and your fans and your family and it’s a large group. And that, to me, is what you grow up dreaming of, is winning a Stanley Cup. Without a doubt, it’s the highlight of my career.
Like I said, the gold medal is something that came on later in all of our careers. Where obviously, the amateurs were the ones that participated in the Olympics then they turn it over to the professionals. But it’s similar to playing in the Stanley Cup, you’re representing your whole country.
It’s so different, especially when you’re representing Canada. The expectations are always there. Anything less than first place or a gold medal is considered a failure and regardless if it’s a Junior, regardless if it’s in the World Cup, the world championships, the Olympics, the expectations are always there. When we won that gold medal in Salt Lake, it was an amazing feeling and very satisfying.
Q. How different is it from when they’re in the playoffs it’s a best of 7 series. And you know there’s going to be an ebb and flow. Whereas in the Olympics it’s more every game is so big, because that one game is a single elimination kind of thing?
AL MACINNIS: Exactly. Once you hit the medal round, there is no tomorrow. It’s almost like you’re playing every game as a Game 7. The pressure’s on and it builds. In the Stanley Cup, like you said, when you have a playoff round of 7, you get to live another day as long as it’s not Game 7.
Really the Olympics, once you hit the medal round, it is four Game 7’s or five Game 7’s, whatever it ends up being. But certainly the pressure is on, and you realize what is at stake.
Q. Back to the speech thing ? did you solicit advice from people as to what to say in the speech? How did that go for you?
AL MACINNIS: Well, you ask a few people. But I think everyone’s different. I think everyone, you know, has to speak from past experiences. You speak from your heart. You speak from your emotions. It seems like, I know there’s different ways to get there, whether it’s through Junior or College or what have you, but really everybody gets there in a different way.
There are different people that influence you. It could have been a family member, I think it could have been a coach. That’s what you have to build your speech around on the people that kind of influenced you and inspired you and gave you the opportunity to play the game. That’s what I tried to build my speech around.
Q. I just wondered as you’re being asked to reflect on various aspects of your career, where your three years with the Rangers comes in there?
AL MACINNIS: Again, we play this game to win, and winning in the Memorial Cup in ‘82 is, you know, obviously the highlight again. Especially losing in the championship game in 1981 against Tacoma, I was at Windsor. To get that far and lose in the championship game was pretty devastating.
But we knew coming back the following year we were going to have a strong team. We were going to have another team that would compete for the Memorial Cup. It was a pretty incredible team that they put together there. And the list of players with Brian Bellows and Scott Stevens and Dave Shaw, Mike Eagles, Wendell Young, and the list goes on. How many guys went on to play professional hockey. And it was an incredible group of guys. To win the Memorial Cup is right up there with the highlights in my career. Obviously, at that time it was number one in playing Juniors.
Q. Was it also case off the ice sort of growing and considering your ages at that time?
AL MACINNIS: No question. Again, it’s so important to touch on the people that, you know, influenced you and were your friends.
You know, when you leave home at a young age, I think it’s so important who you live with and what have you. And when I went to Kitchener, I lived with Mike Eagles who is from New Brunswick, and Wendell Young was from Halifax, Nova Scotia. We were all the same age, we moved in together. And the three of us lived together for three years there and pretty much became brothers. We grew very close, and we all had the same goal in mind and that was making it to the NHL.
We all did, and certainly that rubbed off on each other. It was wonderful to have those other two guys there to lean on in some tough times.
Q. I was wondering if you could talk about how you developed your shot, from the time you were a youth, by the time you made it to the NHL?
AL MACINNIS: Well, the shot started when I was a young kid. And I grew up in a small town in Cape Breton Island, a small fishing village. And my father when I became 9 or 10 years old, he was one of the two gentlemen that looked after the local ice arena. I used to go help them close up at night time and walk around and collect all the pucks that went over the boards and over the glass.
So by the end of the hockey season in spring time, I probably had 75 to a 100 pucks. If it wasn’t a beach day in my hometown, I used to just shoot pucks all day long. I can remember spending hours out there just shooting pucks off a sheet of plywood off my dad’s barn.
I was just doing it for pastime and never thinking that it would end up the way it did and be known for the slap shot. But there was no secret stick or composite stick back then. There were just old wooden sticks with three rolls of tape on it. Used to just fire pucks, and there is no question that’s how the shot became what it is or what it was.
Q. How did you develop once you became a pro? And how did you refine it over the years?
AL MACINNIS: Well, it was something I continued to work at. I remember I always felt probably after midget on, midget hockey into junior that I kind of realized that I was shooting the puck a little bit harder than everybody else. And my junior coach at the time, Joe Crozier, in Kitchener, he was watching me shoot pucks at practice one day and he came over and said, kid, that shot’s going to get you to the NHL some day. Sure enough it was a shot that gave me a chance to play.
Q. I’m wondering about 1989. It happened pretty early in your career. Did you feel after that you’d get to many more finals? What was in your mind as a youngster getting to the final and winning it?
AL MACINNIS: No question. I said that earlier. Once we felt we had a good enough team to probably win two or three Stanley Cups, even though we realized how tough it was to win one and get there, we felt we had the team. We had scoring. We had size. We had goaltending and toughness. And back then you needed a little bit of everything, and I think you still do.
You know, we just felt that we probably could have won more and we didn’t. When you look back, you know, you’re fortunate to win one. But at the same time, we were a number of younger guys. We were still 26, 25, and you know maybe if we happened to be a little older and if we knew a little bit more maybe we could win a couple more. We felt we had the team to do it, we just didn’t do it.
Q. The other thing about the playoffs is often the first round was the hardest. And here in Vancouver Canuck fans remember that first round was pretty hard fought?
AL MACINNIS: Unbelievable. If it wasn’t for Mike Vernon in overtime, the Canucks would have went on to round two without a doubt. They had the better of the scoring chances. Stan Smyl had one, and Tony Tanti had one, And was it Skirko, if I remember correctly, had a pretty good chance. And Mike Vernon robbed all three of them. And they ended up scoring the overtime goal.
But you look back and sometimes things are just meant to be. We got the balance that year and went on to win. Certainly took a lot of pressure off winning that first round.
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