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Flames legend Al MacInnis was 1989 Conn Smythe winner thanks to record point streak and feared slapper


You didn’t need to be a super-sleuth to figure out that Al MacInnis was a top contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1989.

After all, the Calgary Flames defenceman, who grew up in Port Hood, N.S., was perched atop the playoff scoring charts.

Still, this bizarre scene — just hours before the could-be clincher at the historic Montreal Forum — confirmed it.

“I remember on the morning of the last game … They tried to conceal it, but they ran a mock post-game celebration for if the Flames won, and it was put on by the sponsors for ‘I’m going to Disneyland!’ ” recalled Peter Maher, the longtime and legendary radio voice of the Flames and a historian of sorts on that 1989 Stanley Cup run. “So they had Al and Mike Vernon and Joe Mullen and Doug Gilmour all kind of prepped for that, I found out later on. So those were the candidates going into that final game.”

The Flames won the Stanley Cup that night with a 4-2 triumph over the Canadiens.

MacInnis, the blue-liner with the booming slapshot, won the MVP honours.

He also scored a vacation, and a $10,000 bonus, for announcing during the celebrations that he was off to visit Mickey, Minnie & Co.

As he once told Postmedia: “Hey, I got paid to do it. And I got a free trip to Disneyland … I’m not turning down a free trip to Disneyland.”

The Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning will be ready for a trip to … well … anywhere after spending the past two-plus months in a bubble for this unprecedented playoff tournament.

One of the remaining questions is who will be trying to cram the Conn Smythe Trophy into their luggage?

It could, like it was back when the Flames captured their only league title back in 1989, be a defenceman.

Lightning stud Victor Hedman scored again in Wednesday’s lopsided Game 3 — becoming just the fourth gent to hit double digits in goals during the summer restart — and also collected a pair of assists.

If the Bolts can finish the job, Hedman will surely be a Conn Smythe frontrunner. The 29-year-old Swede has piled up 10 goals and 20 points so far, leads the playoffs with a plus-17 rating and is logging a whopping 26 minutes per night.

If the Stars, now trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven showdown, can claw back, Miro Heiskanen will certainly be in the MVP mix.

The 21-year-old smoothie from Finland is tops on his team in both points (24) and ice time (25:27). His ugly giveaway on Wednesday’s opening goal was one of the few blatant errors he has made in these bubble battles.

Of the 54 engravings on the Conn Smythe Trophy, only 10 are blue-liners.

MacInnis, now enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, is among them.

Back in the spring of 1989, he was not just the Flames’ leading point-producer. He won the overall playoff scoring crown with 31 points, six clear of the pack.

“He was absolutely incredible,” Maher said. “Don’t forget, he had that point streak, too — he went 17 straight games with a point, which was a record for a defenceman. He was one short of the record set by Bryan Trottier — and I think it still stands — at 18.

“In the last 17 games, Al had points in every game. Of course, he couldn’t go any further.”

The point streak was halted — one shy of Trottier’s record that does, indeed, still stand — because the Flames were slurping champagne from Lord Stanley’s shiny mug, having finally delivered a parade to Calgary after a heartbreaker against the Habs three years prior.

MacInnis was a force in that final series in 1989.

He buried the winning goal in both Games 4 and 5 and assisted on Gilmour’s decisive dent in Game 6.

As the quarterback on the top unit, No. 2 was a big reason the Flames’ power play struck in all six contests. His final stat line for that series showed four lamp-lightings and five helpers.

“He was always on, I guess that’s the best way to put it,” recalled Dana Murzyn, MacInnis’ defence sidekick during that magical run. “I’d say that’s why he became the player that he did — he was just very consistent. I didn’t, as his partner, all of a sudden say, ‘Wow, Al just bumped ’er up another notch.’ Maybe he did and he took me along with him, I don’t know. But I think Al was always very consistent.

“He was just a great player. He had an unbelievable shot. He was a smart hockey player, moving the puck and seeing what’s in front of him defensively … And just an unbelievable competitor, all at the same time.”

His greatest gift, of course, was that scorching slapper.

Every Flames fan remembers that.

The Canadiens must, too.

“He had that shot that seemed to terrorize Patrick Roy,” Maher said of the Canadiens’ star netminder, himself a three-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner. “In the 1986 series, anytime Al would wind up for that shot, Roy would just stiffen up. I really remember that in 1986. I’m not sure if it happened also in 1989, but it was probably lingering in Patrick’s mind that Al had that great shot.”

Murzyn is sure it was.

“One thing I remember very vividly is the goal Al scored — he took the slapper, and I was following him down the ice,” Murzyn said. “I’ve never known Patrick Roy good enough to ask him, but it looked to me like he kind of stood a little bit in apprehension because he knew a blast was coming, and Al put it right on the ice by him. That’s the kind of respect that his shot garnered from goalies at that time. There, you had one of the best goalies in the game and one of the best defencemen, and we all knew it was coming.

“It was pretty special.”

That was a special spring for MacInnis.

And not just because of the free trip to Disneyland.

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Twitter.com/WesGilbertson

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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