PORT HOOD: For a guy with a Stanley Cup ring and an Olympic gold medal, not to mention past accolades as a Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Al MacInnis wouldn’t seem the sort of guy to have too many accomplishments left to fulfil.
However, the legendary blueliner accomplished a lifelong dream last Saturday – with a few thousand of his closest friends.
“I promised myself if I ever had the chance to bring the Cup back, I’d do it,” MacInnis said during a media scrum at the Al MacInnis Sports Centre last Saturday, following the Chestico Days parade in which he escorted the NHL’s greatest prize down main street Port Hood.
Conservative estimates say at least 5,000 people lined the road for the parade and walked down to the local rink for an autograph session. As a member of the Stanley Cup winning St. Louis Blues, MacInnis was entitled to a day with the Cup.
MacInnis’ day was last Saturday, wedged in the middle of his hometown’s summer festival.
“We all had to request a day, so I’m thinking to myself there’s no way I’m going to get August 3 for the parade of Chestico Days. I put the request in, then a week later the guy doing the scheduling calls me.
“He said August 3 was fine. That shows the type of season we’ve had since January: everything fell into place.
“Bringing it down here with my family and friends, my classmates, people I know and grew up with, is amazing. You want to share it with people. You want people to be able to be a part of it. To be able to do that is unbelievable.”
MacInnis and the Cup were the focal point of the parade, as his float was the last in line. Family members and close friends were on the float with him, wearing Blues caps and tee-shirts celebrating St. Louis’ Stanley Cup win.
Once at the arena, the Cup was on display for photos. MacInnis was also available for photos and to chat with visitors. An exact headcount wasn’t possible, but it’s safe to say the estimate of 5,000 hockey fans is a conservative one. It’s possible six or even seven thousand folks were on the scene.
Just before talking with media, MacInnis had a few photos taken with the Cape Breton West Major Midget Islanders and the Quad Counties Midget AA Girl Islanders. The Midget Girls are Hockey Nova Scotia provincial silver medalists, and the Islanders are the well-known for their Telus Cup run of 2017.
During the Islanders’ championship win at nationals, very few hockey fans from the local area weren’t following the Islanders. MacInnis was no exception.
“I won $500 off Marty Brodeur that day,” he reminisced. “We were in Nashville in the playoffs, and I was following the Telus Cup every day. I followed them on Twitter; I’d tweet things out.
“When the finals came along, they were playing a team from Quebec. Marty [who is from Montreal] and I were having dinner, and I said to him let’s do this. Sure enough, [Quebec] went up 4-1 but we came back to win it 5-4. So I was ready to give him the money, but he ended up giving it to me.”
As a testiment to the heads tured during that Telus Cup run, St. Louis ended up drafting the goalie from that Islander team. Colten Ellis, who was playing with the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after his Major Midget days, was selected 93rd overall in the third round of the NHL entry draft.
“I don’t know how many Midget teams start out to win that tournament. Maybe 180? To have a Telus Cup champion play out of here, that’s an incredible accomplishment.”
Although he now lives in St. Louis and spent a great deal of time in Calgary, MacInnis said his roots make him feel that, whenever he sets his feet in Inverness County, he’s returned home.
“I never forgot where I came from. My mom was a school teacher and my dad worked at the oil refinery in Port Hawkesbury. Before that, he was a coal miner, and he worked at the rink for years. My roots are here. There’s an old cliché where you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.
“When I come home here, it’s home.”