ST. LOUIS (AP) -Al MacInnis has no regrets about a 23-year career that will land him in the hockey Hall of Fame during induction ceremonies Monday. Consider this: The hard-shooting defenseman even enjoyed playing for Mike Keenan.
Keenan overhauled the Blues' roster from 1994-96 in a failed effort to win a first Stanley Cup for the franchise. He was wise enough not to fool with MacInnis, who arrived in a trade on July 4, 1994.
``You know what? Any coach that played me as much as he did, I can't say anything bad about him,'' MacInnis said. ``We had our run-ins and that's OK, but when you're a player all you're looking for is ice time.''
The Blues came close a few times in the '90s under Keenan, who constantly said the franchise needed to ``embrace change,'' and Joel Quenneville. St. Louis lost in the playoffs to eventual Cup winners Detroit, Dallas and Colorado.
``I've always said this about Mike Keenan: There's probably no better coach when you win and there's no more miserable coach when you lose,'' MacInnis said. ``There was not a whole lot in-between.
``But he played me lots and probably made me a little bit more mentally tough as well as a player. There's a lot of stuff you've just got to let go in one ear and out the other.''
MacInnis is a member of one of the Hall's strongest induction classes, with Mark Messier, Scott Stevens and Ron Francis also to be honored.
``To go in with this group of guys is pretty special,'' MacInnis said. ``They're great ambassadors to the game and have made great contributions not only to their teams but to the league as well. It's a great group of guys.''
MacInnis isn't sweating the speech much, knowing he'll be among family, friends and fans in Toronto. But he knows the butterflies won't compare to pre-game jitters.
``It's probably more like Game 7,'' MacInnis said. ``But you wouldn't be human if you weren't a little bit nervous. I want to enjoy it but I'm not going to get too worked up.''
The Blues will honor him again on Nov. 16 before a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
``It would be interesting to take a poll in St. Louis for athletes and ex-athletes as to who is the most popular,'' team president John Davidson said. ``Al's got to be right up at the top for what he did all those years, how much he's meant to this city.
``He's kind of a treasure for St. Louis.''
The 44-year-old MacInnis grew up in the tiny fishing village of Port Hood, Nova Scotia, never dreaming he could make a career out of hockey. He's third in career scoring among defensemen with 340 goals and 1,274 points. The Blues retired his No. 2 jersey last year after a decade in which he set several franchise records, before being forced to retire by eye and shoulder injuries.
Davidson followed MacInnis' career, first as a broadcaster and now as his boss. Since his retirement MacInnis has worked in the Blues' front office, adding scouting expertise.
``To see him evolve, it was quite a remarkable thing,'' Davidson said. ``He developed into a great, great all-around player instead of just a player who was used on the power play.''
Now comes the ultimate honor for the 13-time All-Star who was seemingly never out of position, warding away opposing forwards with finesse rather than brute strength. His calling card, though, was a blistering slap shot.
Seven times he won the NHL's hardest shot competition, a skill honed from countless hours of slamming pucks into sheets of plywood at a rink his father helped manage.
``There were times when I had blisters on both hands and I couldn't hold a stick the next day,'' MacInnis said. ``Never did I think it would end up getting me into the Hall of Fame.
``I know I'm known for the shot, but it gave me a chance to play in the league.''
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