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He was 'the quintessential old-school kinda dude,' who brought toughness, determination and leadership

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

They are the best of the best in Calgary Flames history.

Over 24 days we will profile our All-Time All-Stars (listed alphabetically at each position). Make sure to check back daily to see who's getting the nod.

May 8 - Theoren Fleury (RW)

May 9 - Jarome Iginla (RW)

May 10 - Hakan Loob (RW)

May 11 - Lanny McDonald (RW)

May 12 - Joey Mullen (RW)

May 13 - Doug Gilmour (C)

May 14 - Joe Nieuwendyk (C)

May 15 - Kent Nilsson (C)

May 16 - Joel Otto (C)

May 17 - Craig Conroy (C)

May 18 - Johnny Gaudreau (LW)

May 19 - Jim Peplinski (LW)

May 20 - Gary Roberts (LW)

May 21 - Alex Tanguay (LW)

May 22 - Colin Patterson (LW)

May 23 - Robyn Regehr (D)

Masy24-28 - Defencemen

May 29-31 - Goaltenders

Today, it's Brad McCrimmon, who brought sandpaper, grit and skill:

The photo encapsulates both a special man and a touchstone moment.

Brad McCrimmon caught celebrating alongside another warrior, Rob Ramage. The buzz-saw haircut very much in vogue, a smile as wide, as vast as the horizon framing the family farm back in Plenty, Sask., offset by a nasty, jagged step-ladder of stitches running down the bridge of his nose.

"I picked it up in Game 5," he reported, amidst the bedlam inside the bowels of the fabled Montreal Forum. "But I didn't even feel it tonight."

May 25, 1989. Naturally.

"He looked," recalled Flames' trainer Bearcat Murray years later, "like he'd been through a meat grinder. How he took some of the crap he did in that series, I'll never know. 

"He wasn't big on taking crap."

In total, McCrimmon would log only 231 regular-season and 37 more post-season games modelling the Flaming C, far less than other defencemen of differing eras, and accumulate a modest 83 points.

No matter. His contributions, the example he set, that economical, unsparing, no-prisoners style, cannot be underestimated in the run of '89.

No Beast, no feast.

"He played in a rocking chair," is how longtime member of management, Al MacNeil, described it. "By that, I mean he played at his own pace; he tailored the game to him.

"He epitomized everything good about hockey. Had a spirit about him - a lot of life, a lot of bounce. A bit of a character. He understood the room. The guys loved him."

Injuries sustained by Jamie Macoun in a 1987 car accident had set GM Cliff Fletcher off in search of a replacement. The eventual choice narrowed to two proven, available commodities - McCrimmon or Randy Carlyle.

"I can't remember what the reasoning came down to, exactly, but after some back and forth we went after Mc-Crimmon,'' recalled MacNeil. "No disrespect to Randy Carlyle, but it was the best decision we ever made."

During his three years as a Flame, McCrimmon would go on to collect the Emery Edge as the league's top plus-minus players and be named an NHL all-star in 1988. He'd serve as team captain in '89-90 and as an invaluable mentor to another all-star, Gary Suter.

"He was," recalled Theo Fleury, a mere moppet of 20 that penultimate Cup-clinching night, "just that abrasive guy, y'know, that loved beer and chicken wings. 

"The quintessential old-school kinda dude. He was just ... solid. No frills. Could make that first pass, a great penalty-killer … nobody messed with him on the ice. One of those veteran guys you've gotta have on your team."

The battle level of the man was infectious, contagious.

"A man's man," concluded Lanny McDonald. "Gruff. Tough. And if you look at some of those photos, cuts on his nose, teeth missing. But he couldn't wait to go back to war for Game 1, Game 2, Game 3 …

"The tougher it got, the more he showed up, the better he got."

The imprint McCrimmon left on that special group of spring '89 was most keenly felt when the team reconnected for a 25th anniversary celebration at the Saddledome in May of 2014.

By then, of course, Beast had been lost to us, one of 37 members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Kontinental Hockey League team to perish in the horrific airplane crash on take-off three years earlier.

"It's so, so sad that Brad's not here to celebrate with all of us,'' said McDonald softly. "He meant so much to everybody, and to the success of that team.

"We miss him.

"Because those championships … they may only take a year, but they last a lifetime."

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