Blues retire MacInnis' No. 2 in pregame ceremony
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 could ask.
"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 cheers.
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 Western Conference.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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