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Backchecking With Rick MacLeish

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

Fomer Broad Street Bully Talks Hockey, Horses and Heart Attacks

by Zack Hill

Rick MacLeish tallied 328 goals and 369 assists during his Flyers career
Flyers Hall of Famer Rick MacLeish recently sat down with to talk about his hockey career, his life after hockey and what he is up to these days. MacLeish is the fourth all-time leading scorer in Flyers history, and was on both Stanley Cup winning teams in 1973-74 and 1974-75.

Q: What has been going on in the recent life of Rick MacLeish?
MacLeish: "I am currently working for an insurance company, Financial Options, with three other partners, based in Lynnewood, NJ. When you live at the shore you try not to over work yourself so I work Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I live in Ocean City, NJ, the town that Bob Clarke built (laughs). I have been married for five years to my wife Charlene and have two daughters, Danielle (31) and Brianna (25) from a previous marriage. I am also a proud grandfather now. Danielle has a son, Tyler, who is 26 months old. I am also involved in harness racing. I am part owner of a standard-bred filly named ‘Ain’t Going Back.’"

Q: How long have you been involved with harness racing?
MacLeish: "When I was 19 I was drafted by the Boston Bruins and I used some of my money to buy a racehorse for around $5,000. I got out for a while and then when we won the Stanley Cup in 1974-75, I met the Stafford family over in Voorhees, NJ, and I have been involved ever since. Last year I got a call from Ben Stafford (no relation to the Phantoms’ Ben Stafford) and he asked if I would be interested in buying a filly for $7,500. I was very interested but when I tried to pay for the horse the owners changed their minds and wanted to auction off the horse instead because they thought they would get more money. I really wanted the horse so I went to the auction and won the horse for $1,000. Long story short, she is one of the top fillies at Dover Racetrack and has won over $50,000."

Q: When did you first start to skate?
MacLeish: "I must have put my first pair of skates on, which were double-bladed, when I was about two years old. I still have those same skates hanging on my wall at home. Ever since I can remember my dad would come home from work at 5 a.m. and make a rink right outside the door between our house and my grandparents’ house in Cannington, Ontario. Every day after school all us kids would skate wherever we could find a patch of ice. We skated a lot on Beaver River. When there was enough ice on the river we could almost skate from our town to the next, which was about eight miles away. I was about four years old when I started playing competitively with the six year old kids in the Squirt or Atom League. I always played with older kids because I was further along talent-wise than the kids my age. After I played in the Midget League, the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League drafted me. That is where I met the goons like Bob Kelly."

Q: So you were under the watchful eyes of NHL scouts at a very young age?
MacLeish: "Yes. The Boston Bruins had conversations with my father way back when I played Pee Wee. They also were watching Bobby Orr who played about 35 miles away in Perry Sound."

Q: You almost had a fatal accident in a game when your neck was accidentally slashed. Can you tell us about it?
MacLeish: "We were killing a penalty in Los Angeles against the Kings and Marcel Dionne came down the left side of the ice. He was getting ahead of me so I jumped toward him. Somebody knocked the puck away. As he turned away, his skate turned and caught me in the neck. It really did not hurt. It just felt like a boot hit me. When I skated to the bench I put my hand up to my neck and my fingers went into my neck. The blood started spurting out and that is when I realized it was serious. Thank goodness the carotid or jugular was not severed. Luckily our team doctor was there. He went out to the bus and got his kit and 180 stitches later I was all sewn up. He started stitching me in the first period and did not finish until the end of the game."

Q: Did that you put you out for a while?
MacLeish: "Not exactly. After the game we went out for a couple of beers and cigarettes. Joe Watson said there was some smoke and beer coming out of my neck. I am not sure what it was, but it was definitely something. Around 4 a.m. that morning I woke up and I was bleeding all over the place because the stitches had broken. We called the team trainer and he took me to get new stitches."

Q: Describe that Stanley Cup game-winning goal against the Boston Bruins.
MacLeish: "We won that game 1-0. It was about the middle of the first period. I was facing off against Gregg Sheppard. He and I always draw on our backhand. I was able to get down quicker and I got the puck back to Moose (DuPont). Moose shot the puck about a foot off the ground toward the net. The puck caught the end of my blade, changed direction and went in the net. If it hadn’t changed directions I am sure the goaltender would have made the save. We used to try this all the time in practice and thankfully it worked this time. Later in that game I had a wide open net and all I had to do was shoot the puck. I ended up missing the net by about 15 feet. I have no idea what went wrong."

Q: Besides that goal, what was your other fondest hockey memory?
MacLeish: "Beating the Russians in 1976. They were undefeated playing about six or seven games against other NHL teams before coming to Philadelphia to play us."

Q: Were you guys at all intimidated by the Russians?
MacLeish: "We were probably intimidated for about the first 10 minutes. They would not come over our red line. They would just cycle and cycle. Coach (Fred) Shero told us to line up at the blue line and wait for them to come to our end of the ice. People thought we were a dirty team but the Russians were really a dirty team. They would stick you and run, sit on the bench and laugh at you. They liked to take dives, just like Billy Barber (laughs)."

Q: A couple of years ago you suffered a heart attack at a Flyers Alumni game in which you were playing. What happened?
MacLeish: "When I got to the rink I was fine. I was tying up my skates in the locker room and felt these kinks in my back. The pain in my back got worse and worse as the game went on. Toward the end of the game I was skating pretty slow and now the pain was in my chest. It felt like indigestion so I took some Tums. I asked a guy who had a heart attack about a year prior to this, how could you tell if you’re having a heart attack? He took my pulse and it was sky high. I was not in any great pain, just discomfort. It was like someone was sitting on my chest. They took me to a local hospital. There were about 50 people in the waiting room so I asked to be taken to a different hospital. We drove about three blocks and the pain really started to kick in so I asked to go back to the original hospital. They took me right away and a nurse took an EKG and told me that I had been having a heart attack for the past 3-4 hours. They kept me in overnight. I was there on a Thursday, they did all these tests and on the following Monday I had open heart surgery. I wasn’t excited about having open-heart surgery but the doctor reassured me that he could do the surgery with one arm tied behind his back. I said, ‘When you operate on me you make sure you are using both arms!’"

Q: Did that wake you up, so to speak? Did you change your lifestyle after this?
MacLeish: "Yes. My father died of a massive heart attack when he was 54. But back then the medical technology was not as sophisticated as it is now. My eating habits have gotten better. I was never a heavy smoker, but now I don’t smoke at all. I exercise all the time. I do not skate competitively any more but I rollerblade."

Q: How did you get the nickname "Hawk?"
MacLeish: "People always think that I got that nickname because of the way that I played and skated. But to tell the truth, we were at a bar one night and a woman got mad at me and pressed my nose flat with her fingers and said, "Hawk nose, hawk nose!"My nose is not that attractive. Billy Clement was sitting there listening and soon enough word got out and everyone started calling me Hawk."

Q: They say you were a pretty snappy dresser in your day. Were you?
MacLeish: "Yes. What I did, and what I still do is write down all the clothes I want to take on a trip. If we would go on a West Coast trip we would most likely be playing five games so I would have an outfit for each game. Joe Watson would wear the same outfit for all five games, blue pants with the same shirt. He still wears the same blue pants. One day we were waiting for the team bus and the sheet of paper with my list on it fell out of my pocket and I did not know it. A couple of my teammates picked it up. It listed things like, pink suit, blue suit and so on."

Q: Pink suit? Would you like to share something with us?
MacLeish: "As a matter of fact I had it on that day. After that they started calling me Pink Floyd. Some guys still do."

Q: The Hawk, Pink Floyd - any other nicknames?
MacLeish: "Bedrock."

Q: Why?
MacLeish: "Barney Rubble from the Flintstones lives in Bedrock."
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