When classy Al MacInnis retired from the Blues after a 23-season Hall of Fame career as an NHL defenseman, it was generally believed he'd make a terrific coach one day.
And for good reason.
In case you missed it, Coach MacInnis recently guided the St. Louis AAA Junior Blues to the championship of the 50th Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament. It's perhaps the most prestigious amateur hockey tournament in the world. The list of future NHL stars who competed in the tournament as kids includes Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur, Marcel Dionne, Gilbert Perrault, Eric Lindros and Brad Park.
The Junior Blues (ages 12 and 13) improved their season record to an amazing 73-3-2. MacInnis deflects credit.
"I'm behind the bench, but I just try to open the gate and not screw it up," MacInnis said.
Al's associates know better. They've seen MacInnis in action, and he's an excellent leader who clearly loves teaching the game. And the kids respond to him. MacInnis had plenty of help from his assistants, including former Blue John Wensink, Scott Vendetti, Jordan Janes and team manager Mark Kunin.
Still, his coaching performance at the amateur level only reinforces the opinion that MacInnis will be a first-rate NHL coach if he chooses to do so. For now, however, he's content to continue assisting Blues President John Davidson in the role of VP of hockey operations. MacInnis insists he's in no rush to stand behind the bench. Not when Al and wife Jackie's youngest of four children is only 7.
"I have a young family," MacInnis said. "I traveled as an NHL player for 23 years. That was a lot of time spent away from home. I enjoy coaching. But my family life is a huge commitment for me, and home is where I want to be."
We mentioned the Junior Blues coaches.
Now let's congratulate the players who won the Quebec tourney: Zack Bross, Jake Carothers, Blake Clarke, Charlie Combs, Trey Dodd, Alex Jasiek, Bradley Johnson, Nick Kunin, Ryan MacInnis, Andrew Marsh, Ryan Norman, Will Scherer, Mikey Sieckhaus, Joe Staely, Trevor Stone and Drew Vogler.
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Free T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and David Perron.
Give us The Kid Line!
How crucial has goaltender Chris Mason been to the Blues' success? Some numbers for you: Since Jan. 3, the Blues have the NHL's fifth-best winning percentage, .674. During this stretch Mason is 10-4-4 and has a .940 save percentage, the third-best save percentage among goaltenders with at least 10 starts. And the Blues have scored an average of 2.25 goals in Mason's games since Jan. 3; of the goaltenders who have made 10 starts during that time, 33 have received better goal-scoring support than Mason. But even with the Blues struggling offensively, Mason is coming through and snatching wins.
St. Louisan Larry Hughes got off to a slow start after being acquired by the New York Knicks. In his first three games Hughes made only four of 22 shots and was booed by the fans after firing up an air ball during his first home game at Madison Square Garden. The rust is understandable, given that Hughes did not play for 16 consecutive games after being benched by the Chicago Bulls before the trade. "Larry is a good player but he's pressing a little bit right now," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said.
Looks like the Rams are being more aggressive in free agency than I'd anticipated, and that's a nice surprise. ... A unique achievement: Kudos to Theresa and Kevin Lisch, the St. Louis U. basketball stars who have been named Academic All-America, making this the first time that a brother-sister tandem earned the honor in the same year at the same college. ... We're happy for Cheryl Levick, the former director of athletics at St. Louis U., who has been named AD at Georgia State University after a stint as senior associate AD at Maryland.
If basketball coach Mike Anderson leaves Missouri for Alabama or Georgia after the season, here are some names to keep in mind for a replacement: Mark Fox (Nevada), Lon Kruger (UNLV), Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois), Brian Gregory (Dayton) and Tim Jankovich (Illinois State). ... If the Blues make a trade-deadline run to acquire Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger, Perron would most likely be part of the deal. ... The Blues have the NHL's best penalty-killing rate (88 percent) since Jan. 1.
Congrats to former Rams media-relations assistant Tony Wyllie and wife Natasha upon the birth of their daughter, Toni Simone, who joins her big brother, James. Wyllie is a VP for the NFL Houston Texans, and the former Natasha Simmons is a grad of Hazelwood East and St. Louis U. ... St. Louis continues to be a valuable launching pad for football officials; during the college-football bowl season Steve Barth was the referee for the Conference USA Championship game, and Tom Healey worked as the back judge in the Music City Bowl.
The respective camps of Cory Spinks and Deandre "Bull" Latimore are finalizing details on an agreement to face each other in St. Louis (Chaifetz Arena?) for the IBF junior middleweight boxing championship in late March or early April. ... The Golf Club of Florissant is now being managed by Billy Casper Golf, which owns or operates courses in 24 states. But this is BCG's first venture in Missouri. ... Trent Green is a class act and we wish him nothing but the best.
Where are they now? Here's a Bit from Lyndal Scranton of the Springfield News-Leader: St. Louisan Kelby Stuckey, a 1985 Soldan High grad, recently came in at No. 12 on the Centennial Countdown of top players in Missouri State's 100-year basketball history. After playing 12 years of pro basketball (CBA and Europe), Stuckey is in his final year of law school at St. Louis U.
The Nice Section Former St. Louis Browns outfielder Babe Martin and longtime CBC and DeSmet coach Bob Christian will be honored March 21 at the Greater St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame dinner at the Sheraton Westport. The guest speaker is former Cardinals and Phillies executive Lee Thomas. Inductees include players Wally Cammarata, Tony Caradonna, Pete Colombatto, William Daus Jr., Jack Faszholz, Rick Fiala, Harry Jackson, Jerry Kelly, Gus Mezinis, Mike Pratte, Marc Sinovich, John Tramelli and Gary Woods, plus contributor Barbara Washington and umpire R. Dennis Duncan. Tickets ($50) can be purchased by calling Larry Donovan at 314-645-1996.