Share this article

print logo

MCDONALD IS AWAITING LAST CALL FOR AGING STAR, WINNING A CUP HAS NICE RING TO IT

He is a throwback to another era, a man time is not being allowed to forget.

Lanny McDonald, 36, is a man who in his prime played hockey against the likes of Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and Rick Martin. He wore a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater when it was an honor to do so. He made the Calgary Flames a respected team when they had no right to make that claim.

He also may have played his last National Hockey League game.

A starter in the first two games of this Stanley Cup final series, McDonald was a scratch in Game Three and again in Game Four. He is a doubtful participant in tonight's game (9:05, Ch. 5) in the Saddledome as well.

McDonald struggles with that. If the Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens tonight and one other time, they would win their first Stanley Cup. He would like that.

If they lose? Well, that's the unthinkable part.

"I came back to win the Stanley Cup," he said between games of a series now tied at two wins apiece. "I thought about retirement last season but I wanted one more chance."

This is likely the last chance.

He has accomplished much in his 16 seasons. Buffalo Sabres fans may remember his first NHL game, in Toronto. Rick Martin tripped him and McDonald fell to the ice, almost fracturing his skull. He spent the night in a hospital being awakened every half hour so the nurses could be certain he wouldn't slip into a coma. He took 14 stitches, recovered from what he said was "more than a mild concussion," donned a helmet and "got on with the rest of my life."

It has been a good one.

There are 500-plus goals to his credit. There also are 1,000-plus points, a string of all-star game appearances, Canada Cup games and a career-life filled with memorable moments and inexhaustible friendships.

The Cup, however, is still the reason for his professional being.

"The longer you play, the more you realize how hard it is to get here," he said Monday.

"It took me 13 years to get to my first one (Calgary lost) and another three years to get here again. That's a lot of time."

Getting a Cup ring now may have a bit of a tarnished glow to it, but McDonald can live with that.

"I'd wear it," he said, after first wrestling with the question and a string of others regarding both his limited playing time and his future. "If that's what you're asking, yes, I'll wear it.

"The key is hockey is a team sport. The game is bigger than any one individual. To win takes a tremendous amount of work, effort and mental preparation. As much as it takes, I like to think I made a contribution. Whether it's here in the playoffs or in the 80-game schedule that got us the home-ice advantage, I like to feel I helped."

Calgary got the advantage -- two of the next three games would be here if the series goes seven games -- because it totaled two points more than Montreal in the regular season. McDonald
had a hand in that. He also played in the first two games of this series, but likely won't play again (unless there is an emergency) and probably is finished as a regular NHL performer.

Coaches say they are resting him and Jim Peplinski, another throwback to Calgary's early days. Tired legs, they say. McDonald said his legs never felt better, that he never has been more excited. Still, he won't make waves.

"Nobody likes to sit out," he said. "There's a certain amount of frustration, disappointment. When you've been a leader of the club, you feel you can make a difference, but it's not always up to you."

"Still, there are good things. If you had told me -- especially after that first game when they were waking me in the hospital to see if I was still all there or not -- that I would be playing 16 years later, I'd have to say it has been worth all the knocks, bumps and bruises that I got along the way . . . especially being where we are right now.

"It's frustrating because you can't make a difference out there and disappointment would be a pretty large word as well."

Would anger be included?

"No, being angry is for little kids," he said. "I guess this is one of those tests in life as you go along. Somewhere along the line, there is a silver lining. I'm just waiting to see it come out from behind a cloud."

McDonald has been replaced by former St. Louis Blues forward Mark Hunter. During the regular season, Hunter doubled McDonald's output (22 goals to 11).

When Hunter broke his wrist in the opening series against Vancouver, McDonald was called on to replace him, but Hunter took his job again as soon as he was able.

Even when Hunter became the goat of Game Three, taking a penalty in the closing minutes of the second overtime, he was the Flame of choice in Game Four.

Still, while the goals haven't come, at least not in the bunches that made him such a feared competitor in his prime, the Flames won 11 of 12 playoff games with McDonald in the lineup.

That contribution hasn't been lost on Flames coach Terry Crisp, who has had to walk the delicate path that confronts all coaches faced with easing out a hero.

"Lanny McDonald is a proud man," said Crisp. "He's like everybody else. He wants to play. He has come in here, sat down. We've talked about it. We talked about it the first of the year, throughout the season and in the playoffs.

"Hey, I know what he's going through. I sat out the final game in Buffalo when we won the Stanley Cup (1975).

"Fred Shero made that decision, but I'm wearing a Stanley Cup ring from that year and I have a Stanley Cup (replica) on my shelf at home.

"I love Fred Shero to this day. He won me a Stanley Cup and the guys who went out there that night won me a Stanley Cup. But I played a lot of games before that helped them win the sucker, too.

"Believe me, I was the first guy on the ice when that buzzer went. And the glass wasn't a deterrent."

Crisp said McDonald has handled a "tough situation" well, contributing when called upon and supporting when he has had to sit.

"He's as much a part of the team when he's playing as when he isn't," he said. "He still helps the younger guys and he pulls for all of us.

"I think every one of us wants to see Lanny walk out of here with that Stanley Cup ring on his finger," said Crisp.

"Mostly because he has had such a great career and I can't think of a guy who deserves one (a Cup) more, but also because if Lanny gets one, we all get one."

There are no comments - be the first to comment