Wednesday, March 21, 2012
After turning professional in 1973-74 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lanny McDonald began his NHL career somewhat slowly with 14 goals as a rookie, followed by scoring 17 in 1974-75. He began to pick up steam the following season with 37 before reeling off three straight seasons in the 40's, with 46, 47 and 43 goals.
The following season was a tumultuous one for the Maple Leafs, as Punch Imlach was named the club's new General Manager and immediately had issues with the team's captain, Darryl Sittler. Imlach wanted to trade Sittler, but when he refused to waive his no trade clause, Imlach responded by trading teammates who were close to Sittler. McDonald, who was also himself in conflict with Imlach due to his role as the club's player representative for their union, was one of those dealt, banished to the hinterlands of the American west to the moribund Colorado Rockies.
The trade was a shock to high scoring and popular McDonald, the Maple Leafs fans, the team's coach Floyd Smith and Sittler, who resigned as team captain in protest.
The veteran McDonald was named the Rockies captain and did his best to lead a struggling club, but his stay in Colorado was relatively brief. He arrived half way through the 1979-80 season, scored 81 points to lead the team in scoring the following season, yet 16 games into the 1981-82 campaign, he was gone, having been traded to the Calgary Flames.
McDonald, an Alberta native, was immediately embraced by the fans in Calgary and responded with 34 goals over the remainder of the season. The next season saw him produce by far his best offensive season, as he equalled his career high of 47 goals by the all-star break, leading Wayne Gretzky for the league lead by two. McDonald eventually finished with 66 goals, still the Flames franchise record and the fourth highest total in NHL history at the time. His 98 points were were also a career high for McDonald, who was named the recipient of that season's Masterton Trophy.
He was named a team captain for the 1983-84 season, but injuries limited him over the next two seasons. He rebounded with a healthy 1985-86, playing in 80 games that season, which included his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals during a postseason run which saw him score 18 points in 22 games.
His age began to take it's toll on McDonald, but he would play in his 1,000th career game in the 1986-87 season.
The 1989-90 season saw McDonald reach the 1,000 point mark, followed by scoring the 500th goal of his career two weeks later on this date in 1989 on a wraparound goal against the New York Islanders in a remarkable game which also saw teammates Joey Mullen and Joe Nieuwendyk each score their 50th goals of the season.
Following a remarkable game, McDonald poses with his 500th goal puck, along with Mullen and Niewendyk, who each scored their 50th goals during the same game
The Flames finshed the season with the best record in the league that season, but had to battle the Vancouver Canucks through a full seven games in the opening round before prevailing 4-3 in overtime to advance. The Flames hit their stride and required just nine games to defeat both the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks to earn a place in the finals to set up a rematch of 1986 against the Canadiens.
McDonald, now 36, was scratched from the lineup periodically during the playoffs, including sitting out games 3, 4 and 5 of the finals. However, Flames head coach Terry Crisp felt that if they were to win the cup, currently leading 3 games to 1, McDonald, who had never won a cup, deserved to be on the ice. The decision paid off handsomely, when McDonald, who had just left the penalty box, joined what was now a 3-on-1 break into the Canadiens zone. McDonald took a pass from Nieuwendyk and fired a shot past the Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy to give the Flames a lead they would never relinquish on their way to a 4-2 win and the first Stanley Cup in franchise history in what would prove to be the final game of McDonald's career.
In all, McDonald would play 1,111 games over the course of 16 seasons while scoring exactly 500 goals and 506 assist for 1,006 points.
Internationally, McDonald represented a victorious Canada during the 1976 Canada Cup, played for the NHL All-Stars during the 1979 Challenge Cup against the Soviet Union and again skated for Canada at the 1981 World Championships, scoring 3 goals in 8 games.
McDonald during the inaugural 1976 Canada Cup tournament
On March 17, 1990, McDonald became the first player in Flames history have his number retired, followed by becoming the first Flames player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame n 1992.
Today's featured jersey is a 1989-90 Calgary Flames Lanny McDonald jersey as worn during McDonald's final season during which he scored his 1,000th point and 500th goal, as well as going out in style by hoisting the Stanley Cup as the Flames captain in his final game.
In today's video section, highlights of Game 6 of the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals, including McDonald scoring the Flames second goal of the game.
Next, the Legends of Hockey profile of McDonald, which chronicles his career back to his days with the Maple Leafs.