-After tonight, there will be ten games remaining in the 2005-06 schedule of our St. Louis Blues...5 home, 5 away. There is only one thing remaining on the schedule that provides any sort of excitement for fans of The Note. On Sunday, April 9th the Blues will have pre-game ceremonies to retire the number, and honor as they should, one of the classiest gents to ever put on a Blues sweater... Al MacInnis.
I wish I could have gotten to know "Chopper", as his teammates called him, a little better during the years he played here in St. Louis. We would exchange a few pleasantries from time to time on the occasions he found himself in the penalty box, from where I do my p.a. announcing. But, for the most part, I'm like many other fans who know him through the media and the way he has conducted himself on, and off, the ice. He has been a remarkable example of nobility and gentlemanly play in a sport that features little of it.
Al was born July 11, 1963 in a place called Inverness, Nova Scotia. From what I have read, he is treated like royalty in that town...and with good reason. In another century, you could envision Al being a leader of men, a member of royalty, or a man you would gladly follow into battle. With a name like MacInnis, it's easy to imagine him donning the kilts and battle armour of the clans of the Scottish highlands and swinging the battle ax with fearsome force, much like he has blasted those 100-mph slap shots for the past twenty-plus years in the NHL. He has a strong presence, but a gentle soul. He has the right mix of mental acuity and physical ability to command his due respect.
The man with the big number 2 on his sweater simply played hard, played well, and played fair. Off the ice he invariably had positive things to say about teammates, coaches, management, opponents, and just about anybody else. Not an easy demeanor to maintain in these days where there are so many examples of the opposite among the pampered and spoiled lot we know as professional athletes. What a shame that this man who is held in such high esteem by almost everyone who has had the pleasure of his company, could not be on a Stanley Cup winner here in St. Louis. He did have that joy while with the Calgary Flames...so he does know what it's like.
So, as we wind down this season of ownership uncertainty and eventual change, on-ice injury, win-loss frustration, fan misery and disappointment, at least we will be able to have one special moment with one of St. Louis's all time greats and future hall-of-famer. The small part I will play in the ceremonies on the 9th will be very special to me. It will truly be an honor to have a role in that part of Al's tremendous career... and Blues history.