Al MacInnis inducted into Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame
There was a buzz at the World Trade and Convention Centre on Friday that wasn’t present in previous Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
There were a record 1,000-plus people in attendance, and while many were there to witness one of eight hometown heroes and team earn passage into the hall, everyone was there to see Al MacInnis take his place among Nova Scotia’s most storied athletes.
Out of hockey for three years now, MacInnis was nonetheless kept busy signing autographs and shaking hands at the pre-reception.
And during the three-hour ceremony, he was inducted last to a standing ovation from an audience well-represented by Inverness County residents.
“It was a great night,” said MacInnis. “My journey began in Nova Scotia, and it was only fitting it should end here. And I thought everybody who was there on stage with me had a great story to tell.”
Along with MacInnis, the 2008 inductees included three other athletes, three builders, and one team.
The athletes were Olympic boxer Carroll Morgan, who grew up outside of Port Hawkesbury in Whiteside, Richmond County; Olympic kayaker Don Brien, of Sydney; and Peter Corkum, of Halifax, who played hockey and football for Dalhousie and curling coach of Colleen Jones’ and Mark Dacey’s national championship teams.
Builders included: Wayne Finck, of Halifax, in the sport of lacrosse; Dartmouth’s Arnie Patterson, sports promotion; and Dave Fraser, of Halifax, who advocated blind sport in Nova Scotia and who was lauded in a video presentation by Port Hood native Gary Trenholm.
The one team inducted into the hall of fame was the 1960-61 Amherst Ramblers, whose championship year in the Nova Scotia Senior Hockey League ended with a 3-1 series loss to Galt for the Allan Cup.
In introducing Al MacInnis, Bruce Rainnie, emcee of the ceremony, said despite the three-year eligibility window for inductees, “your election was a given.”
As with all inductees, a short video was shown highlighting each member’s achievements. However, in Al’s case, the video shown was that made by the St. Louis Blues when they retired his sweater number, #2 in 2006.
Highlighting Al’s 23-year National Hockey League career could have taken all night: a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy with the Calgary Flames; a Norris Trophy with the Blues; two-time Olympian, including a gold medal in 1992; first defenceman to lead a team in scoring during the playoffs; 15 NHL All-star games; 17th place on the all-time games played list with 1,416; had accumulated 1,274 points and was 12th on the all-time assists list with 934. Among defencemen, Al ranks among the greatest ever, concluding his career third in goals with 340, third in assists and third in points; and on it goes.
John Van Zutphen, who sponsored Al’s nomination, presented MacInnis with his Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame plaque.
His nomination was put forward by the Chestico Museum and Historical Society, which was represented at the ceremony by its president, Anne Beaton, and members John Gillies, Susan Mallette and Diana Hawley.
Rainnie then interviewed Al onstage, asking him first about his much-feared shot, quoting Blues goalie Mike Liut, who once had his mask shattered by Al’s shot: “There are two kinds of hard shots – there’s hard, and then there’s MacInnis hard.”
Al, ever humble, joked, “I get that question a lot.”
He said, “It was just practice. My dad was managing the arena, and I’d walk around picking up pucks that went over the boards. And if it wasn’t a beach day, there’s not a whole lot else to do so I’d just practice my shot.”
Rainnie asked him how it felt to be ranked among the top 10 all-time defencemen in the NHL.
“You get a chill when you hear these people talk, and to be mentioned among that group is a great honour.”
When questioned on his decision to remain in St. Louis, he replied, “The people there remind me a lot of Canadians. We live in a great community, have great schools, and I work for a great organization. They allow me to stay involved.”
Sidelined by an eye injury and then having a potential comeback stymied by the lockout of 2004, Rainnie asked him was he sorry the way it ended.
“Absolutely not; I have no regrets. I was very fortunate to have the career I had. When I look back, it was quite a ride, and it’s fitting that it ends here at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.”
In an interview after the event, MacInnis said he was happy he was able to make it to Halifax and enjoyed signing autographs again.
“It doesn’t happen as often anymore. You know, having people my age coming up to you, coming up with their kids, I see it as passing on the tradition to another generation, which is what hockey has always been about.”
Prior to the induction ceremony, Al joined John Van Zutphen in making an official cheque presentation of $100,000 to the Inverness County Memorial Hospital in memory of his parents, Alex and Annie Mae.
“It’s a very, very worthwhile cause,” he said, “and unfortunately, the hospital is used by more people than we want. For me, it’s a way to give back to the community. I can’t think of a better cause.”
MacInnis said he remembered fondly the care shown to his parents by the staff at ICMH and in particular Dr. Bernie MacLean.
“How do you thank these people? We’re blessed to have them, and is there another doctor anywhere who does so much for so many people?”
MacInnis, as vice-president of hockey operations in St. Louis, said the Blues are off to a good start this year, and providing they stay healthy, should make the playoffs.
“We’re a young team, and we got out of the gate well. We’re winning games, and two points now are as important as two points at the end of the season,” he said.
“What’s of real concern is the number injuries on all the teams this year. It’s incredible, and it’s not the stickwork.
`If there was one thing I could change it would be to make the ice surface bigger. The players are so big and so fast and so strong, the impact of a hit is so much greater now. And it’s not the glass or the boards that’s going to give.”
When not accepting awards or helping manage the St. Louis Blues, Al is a hockey dad in his community where he puts in as much as 30 hours a week as a minor hockey coach. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, Jackie, and their four kids: Carson, Ryan, Lauren and Riley.