ST. LOUIS -- Al MacInnis got a big sendoff to match the big shot that defined his career.
The St. Louis Blues retired his No. 2 jersey on Sunday night in
a ceremony -- which included dozens of former and current Blues players
and featured 10 video testimonials from the likes of Brett Hull,
Wayne Gretzky and Steve Yzerman -- that likely was the highlight of
the season for the team. The Blues had a franchise-worst 13-game
losing streak and were saddled with one of the worst records in the
NHL entering Sunday's game against the Edmonton Oilers.
"I wish I could skate one more shift, take one more slap shot
from the blue line, for the best fans of hockey," MacInnis said.
"But knowing my No. 2 will forever have a home here is more than I
"I'm forever a St. Louis Blue."
Blues players all wore No. 2 during the pregame skate as
a tribute, and several former Blues were moved to tears by MacInnis'
short speech. MacInnis, who's third all-time in career scoring
among defensemen with 340 goals and 1,274 points, gazed up at the
number after the 45-minute ceremony.
MacInnis, 42, is the fifth player to have his jersey
retired by the Blues, joining Bob Gassoff (3), Barclay Plager (8),
Brian Sutter (11) and Bernie Federko (24). He set team records for
a defenseman in his decade with the team before retiring last
September due to eye and shoulder injuries along with the
inactivity caused by the NHL lockout last season.
MacInnis was a 13-time All-Star and seven-time winner of the
NHL's hardest shot competition. But he said he was inspired before
his first game with the team, who acquired him on July 4, 1994 from
the Calgary Flames, by gazing at the retired jerseys hanging high
above the ice at the Savvis Center during the National Anthem.
"It was the names of these four men that reminded me why
playing for the Blues is as good as it gets in the National Hockey
League," MacInnis said.
The Blues got MacInnis in a steal for Phil Housley, another
offensive defenseman who couldn't match MacInnis' overall game.
Blues owner Bill Laurie, who sold the team last month after
gutting the roster to facilitate a deal, was booed as he was
introduced. Team president Mark Sauer also was booed before his
speech, but his announcement that the team had given MacInnis a
trip to his native Scotland and a golf outing at St. Andrews drew
MacInnis also received a guitar autographed by Tim McGraw from
the team's alumni.
Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger, a longtime teammate of
MacInnis, did not attend the ceremony. Pronger told Edmonton media
that he wanted to devote all of his attention to the game, given
that the Oilers are in a tight race for a playoff spot in the