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The Magic Man set a single-season points record which will likely never fall

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Jarome Iginla was more profilic, Doug Gilmour more decisive.

Theo Fleury was more defiant, Gary Roberts more complete and Al MacInnis more historic.

But Kent Nilsson …  he could, not a word of a lie, could take your breath away.

"To be honest, (he) just leaves me tongue-tied," confessed longtime Flames' executive Al MacNeil. "I'm stumped as to how to explain the guy. 

"He was one of the purest athletes ever.

"I mean, if this guy took up golf seriously he would've been on the PGA tour. If he'd put his mind to tennis, he'd have played at Wimbledon."

The Magic Man had 562 points in 425 regular-season appearances - including 333 assists - that slots him sixth on the career franchise scoring list.

Much of that came with jaw-dropping brilliance and grace, an ease in which he made confounding things seem commonplace.

"Misunderstood,'' is how teammate Paul Reinhart describes Nilsson. "I think he was way more competitive than anybody ever appreciated.

"Obviously, a great talent. The knock on him was that he wasn't always going or that you couldn't count on him to be going in certain situations.

"I personally didn't feel that. His kind of aloof and self-deprecating manner is how he dealt with it and gave the perception to some people that he didn't care as much as he should.

"But I roomed with him and we talked. A lot. You get to know a guy when you room with him.

"Deep down, everyone gets to that (NHL) level has a certain competitive nature to him. He was no different.

"I saw Kent play very well in very, very difficult circumstances."

Nilsson's astonishing 82-assist/131-point campaign of 1980-81, the Flames' first in their new home, ranks, like Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game or Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, as a record that's destined to stand forever.

For that alone, finishing 48 points ahead of runner-up Guy Chouinard, Nilsson ranks among the finest players ever to don a Flaming C.

"Honestly, if there ever was a sense of awe in connection with Kent Nilsson, it occurred in practice, not in games," said Reinhart. "Because he was just so damn good, so damn talented and in practice he could try things out, be free.

"Being out there with him every day, being by the things he did, ultimately made everybody a better hockey player."

A unique talent, to be sure.

"There are very, very few players who can totally control a game," said one-time linemate Willi Plett. "And he made everyone around him - no matter who they were - shine, too.''

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