There’s a photo of Lanny McDonald from 1989 that has become synonymous with
the sacrifice it takes to win the Stanley Cup.
There is Lanny, the red-haired and moustached co-captain of the Calgary
Flames (also bearded at that time from the long playoff run), sweat
dripping from his forehead and still wearing his bright red Flames jersey
with the captain’s ‘C’, cradling the Cup. Look at Lanny’s face and you can
see elation at reaching the pinnacle of pro hockey following years of hard
work and commitment.
Every year during the NHL playoffs, that seems to be among the most
prominent photos shown.
Over 30 years later, McDonald, a product of nearby Hanna, Alta., continues
to call Calgary home and is such a legend in the town that he can’t really
go anywhere without fans wanting to meet him and talk to him (mostly) about
1989. He says it is still magical to this day.
“It is unbelievable,” says McDonald. “That is a moment in time for not only
myself and all of our teammates. To have nine of the guys from the Stanley
Cup team still live in the city, that is remarkable and shows how much
everyone loves Calgary. How we all still want to be a part of it. To be
able to share that with people, grandparents, parents, and now they’re
telling their kids. I sign autographs for so many little kids that I’m sure
have no idea who I am but their mom or their dad or their grandparents said
‘Oh, this is a legend.’”
The word ‘legend’ is thrown around a lot in sports, but there’s no doubt it
applies to McDonald. Following three seasons in the Western Central Hockey
League (a precursor to the Western Hockey League) with the Calgary
Centennials and Medicine Hat Tigers, he would go move on to a Hockey Hall
of Fame career that spanned 1,111 games, an even 500 goals and 1,006
points. His first eight seasons were with the Toronto Maple Leafs and
Colorado Rockies before a memorable day in November 1981 when Lanny was
traded to the Flames, the club with which he spent the remainder of his
career, concluding with that Cup win over the Montreal Canadiens, 33 years
There have been countless individual and team accolades over the years for
McDonald and, this year, there’s one more – he is among three Distinguished
Honourees of the Order of Hockey in Canada. He joins the late Guy Lafleur
and legendary women’s hockey goaltender Kim St-Pierre as the newest members
of the Order, which honours those who have made outstanding contributions
to the sport of hockey. McDonald was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame
in 1992, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and Canada’s Sports Hall
of Fame in 2017. He says the latest honour is right up there.
“You certainly never think of ever receiving an award like this. When
[Hockey Canada CEO] Tom Renney called, at that time he was on the board of
the Hockey Hall of Fame so I’m thinking, ‘Tom must want to talk about
something about the Hall of Fame,’” says McDonald. “And then he gives me
that news and you’re speechless. It was just so cool. Tom and I have been
friends forever and to hear that come from him was pretty darn nice.”
That iconic picture from 1989 is certainly what McDonald is best known for.
But he also had a memorable international career; it included wearing the
Maple Leaf at the 1976 Canada Cup and 1981 IIHF World Championship, and
facing the Soviet Union with a team of NHL all-stars during the 1979
The 1976 Canada Cup roster is considered by many the greatest-ever Canadian
team. McDonald was one of 18 future Hockey Hall of Fame inductees on that
team, which also included Lafleur, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Marcel Dionne
and Bobby Clarke. Really, a who’s-who of hockey in that generation. That
’76 team would triumph in a best-of-three final over Czechoslovakia,
claiming the first Canada Cup title.
“That was a star-studded team. You have the likes of Lafleur, Esposito,
Bobby Clarke. The list went on and on,” says McDonald. “I think there were
18 Hall of Famers on that team. I was like a little kid in a candy store
looking on in the dressing room, like which one doesn’t fit in.”
McDonald has continued his involvement in international hockey since the
end of his playing days. He was general manager of Team Canada at the 2001
and 2002 IIHF World Championships and was director of player personnel of
Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2004 worlds.
He notes that many Canadian kids grow up dreaming of winning the Stanley
Cup, but international hockey is unique and special in its own ways.
“I think because it doesn’t happen every year. Yes, the world championships
happen every year … but you only get to it every so often,” says McDonald.
“When it happens, it’s like ‘Oh my gosh, this is one of the coolest things
you could ever possibly do.’ There’s such great pride in the Maple Leaf and
the jersey. I have had such a fun time over the years of being part of Team
These days, he is chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame, which he describes
as the coolest job.
“If you love the game and love the history of the game, what a great
position to have,” says McDonald.
He also does what he can to grow the game. In May, McDonald was in Finland
at the IIHF World Championship. That same month, hockey fans who took in
the Battle of Alberta between the Flames and Edmonton Oilers also saw
McDonald on the big screen cheering on his beloved Flames in Game 1 at the
Scotiabank Saddledome. In early June, he was cracking jokes and
entertaining crowds at Tooth of Dog Pound Creek Golf Course for a charity
McDonald is a self-described fan of the game. That includes the history of
the game and also where it is today. You likely won’t find a better
cheerleader for the game of hockey and one who is so recognizable wherever
He loves where hockey is today but knows there’s more work ahead to
continue to grow the game and ensure all kids have the chance to play.
“You look at Hockey Canada and you look at a company like Scotiabank which
is a major sponsor of hockey across the country, we’re all trying to make
sure that it’s inclusive and available for everyone,” says McDonald. “To
see kids that may never have that opportunity all of a sudden find this
love affair with this great game that we have all had feelings for all
along, is so great. We just have to continue to work at it and make sure
that hockey is for everyone.”