It's early afternoon, the lazy time of day in early June of 2000. Regina Pats defenseman Barret Jackman is in his sweats and getting ready to go down to the lake near his home in Trail, British Columbia and run as part of his personal summer training program.
The phone rings.
Jackman recalls that the ring is quite a bit louder than usual. Rather than let the answering machine pick up the call and go on with his run, Barret reaches for the phone.
''Yes, it is.''
''This is Al MacInnis.''''OK,'' Jackman recalls saying.
Jackman was actually thinking to himself, which one of his friends would be trying to pull a practical joke on me ("One of my friends called the previous week and told my sister he was Chris Pronger," Jackman recalls).
Then, he realizes it really is Al MacInnis, when the St. Louis Blues All-Star defenseman reminds him of a conversation they had about working out at training camp the previous September.
''I hear you had a pretty good season in Regina and turned a few heads at Worcester (the Blues' AHL affiliate) in the playoffs,'' MacInnis says. ''Remember that guy I told you about who has does wonders training me in the off-season? Well, I think you ought to call him.''
Think about it for a minute. MacInnis, who just finished a Norris Trophy-winning season as the NHL's best defenseman is calling you out of the clear blue and telling you, a 19-year-old aspiring defenseman, to go to see this guy in Phoenix to help your career along. Wouldn't you take his advice?
''As soon as I hung up, I called the travel agent and made reservations to Phoenix for the next day,'' Jackman recalls.
Everyone talks about the big jump from junior or college to the minor leagues and then the even bigger jump in talent from minors to the NHL. But an even bigger gap on that ladder to really competing in the big leagues is being strong enough to go one-on-one with NHL talent.
Usually it's your first NHL coach or a general manager who says, ''Son, you've got all the talent in the world, but you need to be stronger to play in this League.''
Sometimes, an older player encounters a wise, old veteran who dresses him down about the condition he's in.
Keith Tkachuk was that "older player" at the end of the 2000-01 season, when he completed his first couple months with the Blues after being acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes.
Now, this is a 6-foot-2, 225-pound All-Star left winger who scored 50 and 52 goals with the Winnipeg Jets in 1995-96 and 1996-97. When MacInnis approached, Tkachuk was 29 and coming off a 35-goal season and a trip to the Western Conference Finals where Tkachuk was pretty strong for the Blues. But MacInnis felt the visit to his trainer was important for Tkachuk.
''Al didn't just ask me to call this guy. He told me to call him,'' Tkachuk recalls. ''He told me, 'The older you get, the more you need to look after yourself.'
''Al felt I did all right against Derian Hatcher in our second-round series against Dallas. ... Pushing and working for position with the big boys you know. ... But maybe I used up too much energy against Hatcher and didn't have enough against Adam Foote in the next series against Colorado, when we lost.''
Though MacInnis is currently out of the Blues' lineup following surgery on his left eye and a laser procedure on his right eye, it's clear that Al carries a lot of stature around the Blues locker room. And well he should.
Remember, last season MacInnis, at 40, was the runner-up to Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom for the Norris Trophy.