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MacInnis family tradition stays strong with Kitchener

by Tim Wharnsby / NHL.com

Ryan MacInnis celebrated his milestone games last weekend in fine fashion.

MacInnis, 19 and in his third season with Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League, had one goal and three assists in wins against Sarnia and Sault Ste. Marie.

The games were his 157th and 158th in the OHL. They matched and surpassed his father, Hockey Hall of Fame member Al MacInnis, who played for Kitchener from 1980-83.

"I remember the first time I visited Kitchener with him," said Ryan MacInnis, recalling the banner-raising ceremony to honor his father in November 2008. "I was only 12. Of course, I didn't know I was going to play here back then. But it's been pretty cool."

Al MacInnis' banner hangs from the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium rafters alongside ones honoring other legends like Scott Stevens, Paul Coffey, Bill Barber and Larry Robinson. There are photos of the older MacInnis in action on the concourse of the building and there is the 1982-83 team photo, when he was part of Kitchener's first Memorial Cup championship team.

It's not only cool for Ryan, a 2014 second-round pick (No. 43) of the Arizona Coyotes, but for his father too. Al MacInnis, in his role as father and as senior adviser to St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, makes a couple of monthly visits to watch his son play for his old junior team.

"You can't help walk into that building and recall your days there as a player," the elder MacInnis said. "You think about the success we had, the number of players who went on to the NHL and the tremendous fan support.

"The building itself has tremendous character. It's an awesome building for junior hockey. They've done a great job refurbishing it, adding seats and suites. Yet they've been able to maintain the original frame of the building and look of the arena."

Al MacInnis was raised in Port Hood, Nova Scotia. At 16 he went to play for the Regina Blues of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. It was there former Kitchener general manager Mike Penny, now a pro scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs, discovered MacInnis on a tip from former Rangers forward Doug Sulliman, who also hailed from Nova Scotia.

MacInnis settled in with his billet family, Mary and Howard Allen and their sons, Mike and Scott, and made a trip to the Memorial Cup final in his rookie season. The Rangers lost to Dale Hawerchuk and the Cornwall Royals, but MacInnis, Stevens and Brian Bellows rebounded the next season to win the prized junior-hockey trophy.

In his third and final season with Kitchener, MacInnis scored five goals in his regular-season finale to tie Bobby Orr's OHL single-season record for goals by a defenseman with 38. That record stood until 1988-89.

The father has told his son these stories. They especially reminisced when the two drove together to Ryan's first Kitchener training camp. But since that trip three years ago, Al has become more of a hockey dad.

"I try to stay away from the stories now," said MacInnis, who coached Ryan when he played minor hockey in St. Louis. "When you walk around the Aud there are enough reminders about our success."

MacInnis won the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy with the 1989 Calgary Flames, the 1999 Norris Trophy, and gold medals with Canada at the 1991 Canada Cup and 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. He has plenty of knowledge to pass on but has learned to pick his spots.

"Like any father you're nervous when you watch your kid play," MacInnis said. "Inside you're making every move they make. You want them to work hard shift in, shift out. But I enjoy watching him play. I enjoy watching the team play.

"I had the opportunity to coach him in youth hockey. From a hockey standpoint I keep my distance. But do I throw out the idea for him? Absolutely. But I don't want to send mixed messages. I trust the coaching staff that they are doing the right things."

The Kitchener coaching staff has a St. Louis connection. Coach Mike Van Ryn and associate coach Jay McKee played for the Blues. Another assistant coach, Daniel Tkaczuk, has been a nice addition for the younger MacInnis because Tkaczuk played center, too.

At 20-3-3, Kitchener has the second-best record in the OHL, and Ryan MacInnis is tied for third in the league with 19 goals and is 10th with 36 points in 25 games. He wants something his father experienced all those years ago: a long playoff run.

"We have a good group that has grown together," Ryan said. "We have a lot of chemistry here and we feel pretty good about our game. So we'll see what happens."

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