Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Basil McRae, born on this date in 1961, began his road to the NHL with the London Knights of the Ontario Major Junior Hockey League. The left winger gave little indication at first of what was to follow when he completed his first 66 game season with 79 penalty minutes, followed by 116 minutes in 67 games while scoring 24 goals in the process. Following that season he was selected by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft.
The next season, as McRae continued to grow into his 6' 2", 205 pound frame and put it to use by scoring 29 goals as well as discovering his abilities as an enforcer, which saw his penalty minutes rocket up to 266 minutes, first on the Knights and fifth in the league.
For the next two seasons McRae split time between the Nordiques of the NHL and the Fredericton Express of the AHL. Over the course of two seasons with Quebec, McRae scored 5 goals and 9 points as well as 128 penalty minutes in 42 games.
McRae's 1986-87 Quebec Nordiques jersey. Notice the peeling numbers, as the Nordiques were the last team to use heat pressed lettering rather than sewn on twill.
Prior to the 1983-84 season, McRae was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs, which proved to be a dead end career-wise, as he only played four pointless games with Toronto over the course of two full seasons. During those two seasons, McRae scored 14 and then a career high of 30 goals with the St. Catharines Saints of the AHL while averaging 187 penalty minutes over both seasons.
For the 1985-86 season he signed with the Detroit Red Wings organization. The first season he once more toiled in the AHL, this time with the Adirondack Red Wings where he scored 22 goals and 52 points as well as 259 penalty minutes, which was 34 minutes shy of even cracking the top 10 in the rugged minors.
The 1986-87 season was a breakthrough for McRae, as he made the Red Wings club out of training camp and played in 36 games before being traded back to the Nordiques in January, where he played 33 more NHL games without spending a day in the minors that season. Given the chance to fulfill his role as an enforcer on a daily basis, McRae finished the season with the fourth greatest number of penalty minutes that season with 342, just 19 behind league leader Tim Hunter.
With his contract new expired, McRae singed with the Minnesota North Stars for the 1987-88 season to replace the departed Willi Plett. McRae became an instant fan favorite with the fans in Minnesota as he protected the likes of Dino Ciccarelli, who was good at starting the trouble McRae would finish, Brian Bellows, Brian MacLellan, Brian Lawton, Neal Broten and Dave Archibald, the North Stars top six scorers who had less than McRae's 378 penalty minutes combined., which was second only to Bob Probert's 398.
McRae would go on to play for more seasons with the North Stars. He followed his 378 minutes in 1988 with 365 (2nd again to Hunter) and then 351 to finally lead the entire NHL in 1989-90 when he was a part of a fearsome duo with Shane Churla and his 292 minutes.
He was limited to just 40 games in 1990-91 and then suffered a broken leg in 1991-92, which restricted him to 59 games before being left unprotected in the 1992 Expansion Draft during which he was claimed by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Fate wasn't kind to McRae, who once again broke his leg while with the Lightning after just 14 games. McRae was then traded to the St. Louis Blues and recovered in time to play in 33 games. His career would wind down with 40 games in 1993-94, 21 games in 1994-95 and 18 games in 1995-96, all with St. Louis, before one last go with eight games with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1996-97 before his retirement.
Today's featured jersey is a 1991-92 Minnesota North Stars Basil McRae jersey. 1991-92 was the first season for the North Stars new black jerseys after 24 years in green.
When the jerseys were originally conceived, they used a short, italicized green font outlined in two colors for the preseason and possibly a few early regular season contests before it was abandoned in favor of a legible standard block font in an easy to read white due to complaints about the readability of the original names as shown in the second photo below in comparison to the replacement font used in the lower photo.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is one of the most interesting individual jerseys we've ever featured on Third String Goalie and gives some great insight into the mind of an enforcer. McRae cut the full length of the underside of the sleeves on his North Stars sweaters and had velcro sewn in to make the jersey appear to be a standard issue jersey. Only when McRae had an opponent grab his sleeves in an effort to tie up his arm during a fight, he simply yanked his arm back, ripping open the velcro strips, freeing up his entire arm so he could throw punches at will!
Take a look at the photo of the front of the jersey to see how it appears normal, but then compare it to the photo of the back of the jersey which has had the velcro, most visible on the left sleeve, opened up. The resulting loose, floppy sleeve can best be seen hanging on the right side.
To see the effectiveness of McRae's velcro sleeves, take a look at this video. Once the fight breaks out, see how Peluso is hanging on in an effort to tie up McRae's arms, which are free to keep hammering away even though Peluso has two fistfulls of fabric, which would ordinarily be enough to prevent an opponent from being able to throw bombs like McRae is fully able to continue doing here.
This fight actually took place during the pre-game warmups and was Peluso's first NHL game, meaning his first fight took place even before the opening faceoff! McRae was subsequently suspended five games for his role in the incident.
Here are some more of McRae's "greatest hits".
McRae vs. John Kordic.
Here McRae takes on Buffalo's Brad May with commentary by the great Rick Jeanneret.
Finally, Craig Berube and McRae is a hail of punches. Yes, McRae didn't win every fight, but he always answered the bell.
Oh, yea. He also put the puck in the net on occasion too, scoring 53 goals during his career.