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Stanley Cup 125th Anniversary

Al MacInnis couldn't wait to hoist Stanley Cup

Hall of Fame defenseman recounts final seconds before Flames' championship in 1989

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

Editor's note: The Stanley Cup turns 125 years old on March 18. To celebrate the historic anniversary, talked to the players and coaches who dedicated their lives to winning the Stanley Cup, some succeeding, some failing, but all with incredible stories about their quest for hockey's ultimate prize.

Al MacInnis was in the penalty box as the clock counted down.

Growing up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, he had dreamt of playing at the Montreal Forum, watching the Montreal Canadiens and listening to Danny Gallivan and Dick Irvin on "Hockey Night in Canada" each Saturday night. He had dreamt of winning the Stanley Cup.

Back then, he said, "Saturday night couldn't get here quick enough."

When MacInnis entered the NHL, he would check the schedule each time it came out, hoping to play at the Forum on a Saturday night.

Video: Al MacInnis rode slap shot to Hall of Fame

"That place was an absolute shrine," he said. "I loved playing there."

Now the seconds couldn't tick by quick enough.

It was May 25, 1989, Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Calgary Flames had a 3-2 lead in the series and a 3-2 lead late in the third period at the Forum when MacInnis and Canadiens forward Claude Lemieux served coincidental minors.

The Flames had lost to the Canadiens in the Final in 1986. They had watched their provincial rivals, the Edmonton Oilers, win the Cup in 1984, '85, '87 and '88. Now they had a chance to win a championship for the first time and become the first visiting team to hoist the Cup at the Forum by defeating the Canadiens.

From the box, MacInnis watched the Canadiens turn over the puck in the neutral zone. He watched teammate Doug Gilmour take a pass, weave to the left across the offensive blue line to avoid a diving defender and shoot the puck from a sharp angle into an empty net with 1:03 left.

The Flames had a 4-2 lead. They were going to do it. The dream was going to come true.

"That was the moment," said MacInnis, who had 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, became the first defenseman to lead the postseason in scoring and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player. "It wasn't even the feeling of joy or happiness. It was almost more relief. We had a lot of pressure."

MacInnis played 23 seasons in the NHL, 13 with Calgary and 10 with the St. Louis Blues. He won the Norris Trophy as the League's best defenseman in 1999. He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and is one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian.

But that night was the only chance he had to win the Cup, and he did it on hallowed ice.

"I'll never forget that," MacInnis said. "I felt 100 pounds lighter. Now, I can't remember if the penalties expired before the end of the game. I just remember that moment in time. It's just like, 'Wow. Thank God.'"

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