Al MacInnis is one of the all-time greatest hockey defensemen to ever play in the NHL. This Norris Trophy winner, through the 2003-2004 season, racked up 340 goals and 934 assists for a total of 1,274 points in 1,417 games. 40 of those 340 goals were game-winning goals. Al has also sported 1,505 penalty minutes and a sold-his-soul-to-the-devil career plus-minus rating of +307. He has played for two NHL teams in his career: from 1982 to 1994 he played for the Calgary Flames and ever since then has played for the St. Louis Blues, the team where he's played with such stars as Brett Hull, Pavol Demitra, Chris Pronger, and The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
Al MacInnis has always been a team leader wherever he's played at. When he talks, other players listen. Indeed, his last few seasons he served as the Blues captain and he has always been at least an alternate captain for the team. He also served as the Flames' captain for many of the years that he played there. He is a very defensive-minded player; he seems to always be in the right place at the right time and has almost a sixth sense with his anticipation about where the puck is going to end up during play.
MacInnis was born July 11, 1963 in Inverness, Nova Scotia. He stands at a dominating 6 feet, 2 inches tall and shoots right-handed. His jersey number is 2. He was drafted in 1981 as Calgary's 1st choice, 15th overall. In 1994, on July 4, he was traded to St. Louis by Calgary with Calgary's 4th choice in the 1997 Entry Draft for Phil Housley, the Blues' 2nd round choice in 1996 Entry Draft and 2nd round choice in 1996 Entry Draft.
Al MacInnis began his pro hockey career in 1980 playing for the Kitchner Rangers of the OHL. In the 1983-1984 season he split time between the Calgary Flames and Colorado Flames of the CHL but in the 84-85 season played full time for Calgary and never looked back. In the 87-88 season he became the first Flames defensemen in their history to score 25 goals (in the previous season he scored the most points by a defensemen in the Flames history with 76). In the 1988-1989 season he notched 58 assists and was an integral part of the Flames' 1989 Stanley Cup team; indeed, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP as he lead the NHL with 31 points in 22 playoff games. In 1991-92 MacInnis scored 20 or more goals for the third consecutive season and recorded his first hat trick on March 16 against the Hartford Whalers. In his final season with the Flames, MacInnis notched his 200th career goal and 600th career assist and appeared in his sixth NHL All-Star Game.
After being traded to the St. Louis Blues, where he currently enjoys being the team's best and most decorated defenseman, Al continued to post obscene numbers and develop his wicked slap shot, which at times clocks a speed of over 100 miles per hour. In the 1995-1996 season he played in his 900th career game and recorded his 900th career point on March 7 while playing Calgary, his former team. Al tallied his 1,000th point on April 7, 1998 while playing the Detroit Red Wings, which made him only the sixth defenseman in history to reach that plateau. It was in the 1998-99 season, though, where he won the most coveted award for any NHL defenseman, the Norris Trophy. Al played all 82 games that season, notching 20 goals and 42 assists for a total of 62 points, which lead all NHL defensemen that season.
Ever since the 2000-2001 season MacInnis has played with a visor and a special contact lens, for he missed 23 games that season due to an eye injury (his cornea got whacked with an errant stick), a malady that actually threatened to retire him. Coincidentally, two other Blues players that year suffered the very same freak injury. But Big Al came back and scored ten points in the playoffs that year which helped the Blues streak to the third round for the first time in 15 years, when they were ousted by the Colorado Avalanche in five games. Al, as he'd done many times in his career, lead all NHL defensemen with 52 assists in the 2002-2003 season and played all but two regular season games that year. He also led all defensemen with 37 power play points. He made his 12th All Star appearance that year where he won the hardest shot contest for the seventh time (98.9 mph).
Slap Shot & Greatest Goals
One thing that has to be mentioned when talking about Al MacInnis is his previously-mentioned slap shot. Goalies all around the league revere him, as several have been injured by his shot, including then-teammate Rich Parent who had one of his testicles ruptured by a MacInnis shot during practice in the 98-99 season.
On November 27, 1999, during a Blues 8-3 spanking
of the Chicago Blackhawks
, Al MacInnis broke 'Hawks goalie Jocelyn Thibault's left ring finger with a slap shot so hard it actually went through Thibault's glove! MacInnis did the very same thing the very same season to Chris Osgood, who is actually the current Blues netminder.
"One time Al hit me on the end of my thumb and it was like somebody had grabbed my bare hand and slammed the car door on it over and over," former Oilers goaltender Bill Ranford said once of a MacInnis shot. "I can't describe the pain and it wasn't even broken. He is the only guy who can hit you in the middle of your glove, where there is plenty of padding, and it still stings. It's scary."
Another great goal of MacInnis' came because of his great shot, but this time he didn't break a goalie's glove, but rather his spirit: on Monday, November 17, 1997, as the final seconds wound down in a tied match-up between the Blues and Maple Leafs in Toronto, Al MacInnis, from his team's side of the red line, decided just to shoot the puck at then-Leafs goaltender Felix Potvin to end regulation and go to overtime. But, as fate would have it, the puck actually bounced in right over Potvin's shoulder, which gave the Blues a 3-2 lead with one second left.
Of course, the Blues won the game.
Al MacInnis played his final NHL season in 2003-2004. Three games into it, Al noticed that he could no longer see his feet well. He saw the eye doctor and it turned out not only was his old eye injury back, his other eye sustained damage as well. He did not return the entire season, leaving the Blues without a captain and their best defenseman. Even though his eyes have healed again, playing any longer risks permanent damage to his eyesight.
Due to the apocalyptic nixing of the 2004-2005 season caused by the labor dispute, he did not, obviously, play at all that season. Citing the fact that he hadn't played in nearly two years - not his eye injury - much to the sadness of Blues fans and management, on September 9, 2005 he officially announced his retirement, ending his 23-year career.
"My health is good and my will is strong," he said during the press conference that everybody in St. Louis had dreaded for years. "But today it is time to count my blessings... This game has given me everything I've got today. It's time to unlace my skates and give thanks... I just felt that after not playing competitively for two years that I could not reach that level of play again. It was strictly time."
He did, however, plan to stay with the Blues' organization in some capacity. Blues' GM Larry Pleau promised that Al was "going to stay with the organization for a long time."
In one of the only memorable hilights of the Blues' horrible 2005-2006 season, on Sunday, April 9, 2006, in an hour-long pregame ceremony the Blues retired Mac's #2, raising it to the rafters to join Federko's #24, Sutter's #11, Plager's #8, and Gasoff's #3. It was an emotional ceremony featuring some of his friends and his family and former teammates like Brett Hull and Tony Twist. The Blues won the game that night 2-1, perhaps energized by the ceremony, against Chris Pronger and the Edmonton Oilers, snapping a 13-game losing streak. Some speculated that Hull's should've been retired first, that Al spent more time in Calgary, but his class and dedication to St. Louis and all the fanlove made it a no-brainer for most. Plus, he retired a few weeks earlier than Hull.