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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Al MacInnis ranks third all-time in scoring among NHL defenseman (Getty Images).
Editor's Note: Joe Crozier held a career in hockey for more than sixty years, spanning roles as a player, coach and general manager. From 1980 until 1982 Crozier coached the OHL Kitchener Rangers, including such calibur players like Al MacInnis and Scott Stevens. Both players are to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night as part of the 2007 class for their efforts in the NHL. Crozier sat down with to talk about Stevens and MacInnis, their work ethic and even lead pucks.]

Q: Did you ever play Stevens and MacInnis on the same unit?

Joe Crozier: I never played them together on a line. The only time I ever did play Scotty and MacInnis together is maybe when they are killing a power play. MacInnis played all the power plays for us. The strongest shot he had... Stevens was a different type of a guy. He was a tough guy, a miserable type of tough guy. Everybody looked out for him. MacInnis was the finesse type of player.

Q: Is it true you used lead pucks in practice to help MacInnis?

JC: I would give him lead pucks because it would make his shot harder. He drives that puck, just unbelievable. He has a very very hard shot.

We had them made up special for him. They weren’t 20 pounds or anything like that at all. They were, I figure, maybe two and a half pounds. He broke a few sticks, but the sticks at that time were a little bit better than they are today. They didn’t break as quickly at that time. He had one of the hardest shots I have ever seen in hockey, that Al MacInnis.

Q: Talk about their work ethic and how they approached the game.

JC: They had a good work ethic. Every day they were supposed to go to school, naturally, and I would be calling in the morning to make sure they went. Then at four o’clock they would be at the rink and dressed and away we would go. After hockey we would work out on different things, do sit-ups and pushups and work on the barbells. But it would be after practice because we only had so much time on the ice.

New Jersey Devils captain Scott Stevens follows through on a shot during practice in this May 18, 2001 file photo in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Chris Gardner,
Q: How was their presence in the locker room?

JC: They had good presence. They both had a lot to say. But I had a type of hockey club where they were all quite vocal. They were a good bunch.

Q: What were some things you taught them as a coach to help their game?

JC: There wasn’t too much. They were young kids really, about 17 or 18 years old. I had to increase their skating. Stevens was a better skater than MacInnis to start out with. Then as we would go into the circles and across the ice and all that.  They started to get better.

Q: Did you know right away that MacInnis and Stevens would make it to the NHL?

JC: I did. Stevens was a very tough guy and he would hit you. He would hit you right as you were coming across the blue line. He would be looking for you and bang.

MacInnis, the way he shot the puck and handled the puck was unbelievable. You knew right off the bat. I had a lot of fellows that made it to the National Hockey League. It is all about scouting and getting good players. Anyone can coach, if you have good players.

Q: What type of players are they to try to coach?

JC: Those two guys were good, coachable players. They were good guys, but they would play tricks on me all the time.

I would have my sweat suit up there in the locker room and they would go in there and turn it inside out, so it would take me that much longer to get out on the ice. There was a bunch of stuff they used to do to me like that. But one good thing about coaching is I always got along with my players. They were not tough to handle though. They were very good.

Q: How were they off the ice?

JC: MacInnis was a maritimer, that Cape Bretton I think he was from. They have a different way of life all together up there. They are a little different. He was easy going and loosey goosey. Stevens was a local kid up there from Kitchener. It was a little different there for him because he had family there and was living at home. I don’t know if that brought on his toughness or not, I couldn’t tell you.

Q: What was a memorable game for each player when they played for you?

JC: The one game that I pulled the goaltender so MacInnis would score and break Bobby Orr’s record, that was memorable. He was tied for most goals for a defenseman in juniors. He broke it in Guelph, Ontario.

Winning the Memorial Cup was memorable for both of them I think. The big parade we had and everything, it just turned the whole city on fire. They were young boys and it’s the first time they ever won anything and they are just with it really.

Q: What do you remember about them? Do you still keep in contact?

JC: I remember how good they both were and how good of a club we had. There weren’t too many teams that could beat us. They are still good friends of mine and I don’t have any problems with those boys. They talk to me all the time and we call back and forth.
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