|Al MacInnis 2007 Hall of Fame Class |
If you are a Calgary Flames fan, you know Chopper, aka Al MacInnis. For parts of 13 National Hockey League seasons the kid from Port Hood, Nova Scotia patrolled the Flames blueline, blasting his 100 mile an hour slapshot from the point.
It is fitting that MacInnis, who won the Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989 while claiming the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the finals, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. In fact, he walks into the Hall of Fame with one of the best classes ever as he is joined by Scott Stevens, Mark Messier and Ron Francis in the class of 2007.
"It's just a thrill to be part of it," said MacInnis, who now works as vice president of hockey operations with the St. Louis Blues, where he finished his terrific 23-year career. "It's a privilege for me to be entering the Hall of Fame with this group of inductees."
MacInnis was also a Norris Trophy winner, a gold medal winner with Team Canada, a perennial all-star and winner of the NHL's hardest shot competition seven times.
He couldn't help but reflect back on those who helped his career blossom.
"When you reflect back, there's so many people to thank from family members to teammates to coaches to the teams that I've played for, the Calgary Flames and the St. Louis Blues," said MacInnis.
MacInnis turns 44 on July 11. He was traded from the Flames to the Blues in 1994 for Phil Housley and two second-round picks. MacInnis' career totals in 23 seasons include 340 goals and 1,274 points in 1,416 games, making him the third-highest scoring defenseman in history. MacInnis had his No. 2 retired by St. Louis last season.
He becomes the first Nova Scotian to enter the Hall of Fame, but he doesn't figure that will last long -- not with Sid the Kid on the way.
"I'm certainly proud of where I come from," said MacInnis, adding he had no idea he was the first Nova Scotia-born player to enter the Hall. "Obviously I am proud of that accomplishment and you know, with the players coming out of there today, the likes of Sidney Crosby, it's not going to last long. I actually told Sydney at the wards in Vacnouver last year that I was kind of upset because someone mentioned to me that I was maybe the top player that ever came out of Nova Scotia. I worked 23 years to get that and it ended after four months of Sydney Crosby being in the NHL. We got a good chuckle out of it."
MacInnis was never positive he would enter the Hall of Fame -- it's a long way from shooting pucks at the family barn in Port Hood, afterall.
"I guess probably not until near the end of my career. Starting out, obviously, in Calgary with Cliff Fletcher, the general manager had to be pretty patient with a junk defenceman who wasn't that great going in," said MacInnis. "But I think like any other player stepping into the National Hockey League you want to become the most complete player, the most consistent player you can be. I felt after a few years I did that and just as time goes on you get lucky enough to play on some great teams with some great teammates and you are able to put up some numbers and these guys help you accomplish a Stanley Cup and a few individual awards.
"I think just over time and the longevity, you know, you think near the end, well, this day might come but you never want to hold your breath."
MacInnis and Stevens were teammates in Kitchener when they played junior for the Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. Now they will enter the Hall of Fame together at a ceremony on Nov. 12.
"Al, obviously, was always gifted offensively, even a big shot in Kitchener -- I can remember he was a big part of us winning the Memorial Cup. Al, he worked hard, he had to work hard for everything he has earned and that probably goes back to his background. But the way he developed quickly in all aspects of the game, the defensive part, the offensive part, he just really became an all around player and probably one of the best defencemen to ever play."