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Offensively gifted with a booming slapshot that struck fear into the hearts of goalies everywhere, MacInnis set the bar for Flames defencemen

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

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Al MacInnis was, is, and continues to be the 24-karat gold standard for defencemen in this neck of the woods.

The kid from Port Hood, N.S., who honed the slapshot that would become his trademark by firing pucks at a sheet of plywood set against the family barn during the summer, holds a unique place among the great players of the past 38 years.

Ask another distinguished fellow Maritimer.

"It's an intimidation game,'' explained one-time coach/ long-time executive Al MacNeil. "I know they're always trying to tell you different nowadays. But it's ALWAYS an intimidation game - in one form or another.

"When you mention intimidation, everyone thinks you're talking fisticuffs.

"I'm talking the ability to overpower, to impose your will, on the other guy."

Nowhere, in MacNeil's mind, was that imposition of will more telling than during the 1989 Stanley Cup final between the league's top two teams: the 117-point Flames facing the 115-point Habs.

"Al MacInnis," recalled MacNeil with relish, "just about terrorized Patrick Roy. 'Distracted' is a kind word to use. 

"He had him worried, bad, because of the howitzer. No doubt about it. That was an edge we had.  

"When you've got a guy that can really fire the bombs, it gives you such an advantage."

When scrolling through the franchise record book, MacInnis pops up everywhere, naturally. Third all-time in career points (822) and first among defencemen, a whopping 378 ahead of second-positioned Paul Reinhart. Third highest in regular-season games played (803), first in assists (609) and seventh in goals (213). No one has collected more playoff points (102) over the course of a Calgary career and while modelling Flames' silks he became one of only five D-men in history to crack the 100-point plateau, reaching an astounding 103 during the run of the 1990-91 season.

"Did I realize what I was doing that year?'' MacInnis confessed later, in retirement. "Not really. I mean, I look at it now, and go 'Wow. A hundred points.'

"Seems crazy."

The personal high-water mark, though, undoubtedly arrived during those '89 playoffs. En route to the Conn Smythe Trophy as post-season MVP, MacInnis became the first at his position to lead in scoring, with 31 points, and finished with a 17-game scoring streak, the longest by a defenceman in NHL playoff history.

Following a dozen seasons of gathering achievement at the Saddledome, the team's first pick (15th overall) in the 1981 entry draft would go on to ongoing success in St. Louis. He collected his only Norris Trophy as top defenceman out in the Show Me State, but it was here that MacInnis developed his all-around game to an elite level, made his name, where he reached the pinnacle of the profession and savoured the ultimate moment.

"Thinking back, that Stanley Cup is the one thing I'm proudest of in my career,'' he said. "No question. That's what you dream about as a kid, on the street or down at the local rink. Someone's Danny Gallivan, announcing the game, right? And everyone is pretending to be their favorite player.

"And you always win Game 7, score the big goal and get to lift the Cup.

"And there I was, living that dream.

"I'll always be tied to the Flames' franchise, the city of Calgary. That's how it should be. I wouldn't want it any other way."

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