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Joe Mullen made a living playing in the hard areas of the ice

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 7 - Theoren Fleury (RW)

May 8 - Jarome Iginla (RW)

May 9 - Hakan Loob (RW)

May 10 - Lanny McDonald (RW)

May 11 - Right-wingers

May 12-16 - Centres

May 17-21 - Left-wingers

May 22-27 - Defencemen

May 28-30 - Goaltenders

Today, we look back at Joe Mullen's time in Calgary:

Odd as it might seem, a guy standing 5-foot-9 and tickling the Toledos at 180 pounds ranks among the toughest hombres in franchise history.

"Mully," once praised Brad McCrimmon, a fairly resolute character himself, "spent a career excelling in areas of the ice a lot guys wouldn't visit on threat of death.

"Great balance on his skates. Great desire. Great teammate.

"A little guy with big talent and a huge heart."

Toughness, you see, isn't only calibrated in board-bending hits or shucking the mitts. 

Toughness, real toughness, can also be graded in indomitability, in willpower, in being knocked down and bouncing back up in a heartbeat.

Nothing or no one, it seemed, could keep Joe Mullen down. In an era of anything-goes physicality and nasty stickwork, he took a lickin' and kept on tickin'.

"I always said Joe was like a greased pig,'' lauded defenceman Al MacInnis. "He'd find a way to get through the defence and then he'd find a way to get his shot off. 

"A lot of people tried to get a piece of him, but he squeezed through people and got the shot off."

Over a point-per-game man during his Calgary stint - 388 points in 344 starts - Mullen was especially lethal during a three-year stretch, '86-87 to '88-89, the right-winger hailing from the hardscrabble Hell's Kitchen neighbourhood of New York scoring 47, 40 and 51 goals, collecting two Lady Byng trophies, an Emery Edge Award as the league's top plus-minus player and earning a first-team All-Star selection.

If on a team jam-packed with good to great players, he flew a bit under the radar here, the opposition fully understood his importance.

"Mully could read the game, a skill that not a lot of players have today," recalled goaltender Grant Fuhr, one of the hated rivals in Edmonton during the golden era of the Battle of Alberta.

"You've either got it or you don't. He knew the best places to score goals. And he played hard every single night. Guys don't fight through traffic anymore the way Joe Mullen used to."

To this day, he holds the franchise record for career playoff goals, at 35. During the '89 playoff run, operating alongside centre Doug Gilmour and left-winger Colin Patterson, he topped the charts with 16 goals in 22 games and finished third in points, behind Conn Smythe Trophy winner MacInnis and Philly's Tim Kerr, at 24.

After being dealt away by Calgary four-and-a-half seasons since his acquisition from the St. Louis Blues, Mullen would go on to collect two more Stanley Cup rings in Pittsburgh and be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

No less an authority than Mario Lemieux sang his praises at the HHOF induction weekend.

"Joey was a great competitor, a guy who really changed the outlook of our team when he came to Pittsburgh in the early 1990s," said Super Mario. "'I had a lot of great years with Joey and I feel privileged to have played with him.

"It's great that he's here."

His time here, highlighted by the '89 run, has always held a unique significance, though.

"Your first Stanley Cup," Mullen acknowledged, "is special. Because it's the first time you experience that type of feeling. 

"Every time you win another one, those feelings are the same. But they can only be new once."

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