Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ab McDonald's bridged Cup run between the Habs and Blackhawks

Alvin Brian "Ab" McDonald would probably be considered a power forward of his era. Standing a very solid 6'3, the now 74-year-old greeted fans and collectors at a Toronto appearance this weekend. For a man 35 years removed from the playing the game. he still looks to be in the best of shape.

McDonald joined the bably bruised Canadiens roster, at the end of the 1957-58 season, after a successful year in Rochester (AHL) that saw him score 30 goals. Despite injuries to several key players, he only appeared in two games of the Stanley Cup Finals, against the Boston Bruins. McDonald just had a had a single hooking penalty to show for his efforts, but nonetheless his name was etched on the Stanley Cup for his contribution.

The next season, McDonald was playing full time, and began to show his offensive abilities with 13 and nine-goal seasons. Not bad for a third-year player on a team stacked with future Hall of Fame players.

With another pair of Cup wins in his pocket, McDonald was looking forward to another season in Montreal. It didn't happen as he would be traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in a multi player deal.

Though disheartened to be going from a team that had just won it's fifth straight Cup to a team that hadn't see one since 1938, McDonald wouldn't let that stop him. The Blackhawks had a team of young and eager players, led by Stan Mikita, Pierre Pilote and Bobby Hull, and an iron man goaltender named Glenn Hall.

The Blackhawks would face the Canadiens in the semi finals that year, and led by Hall's brilliant goaltending, would oust Montreal in six games. Nursing a skin infection McDonald didn't see action until Game Five, but recorded a goal and an assist against his former team.

Chicago would square off against the Detroit Red Wings in the Finals. The Blackhawks had the Red Wings in a predicament by the sixth game. Down 3-2 in the series, Detroit would be without goaltender Terry Sawchuk, who had been injured in Game Five. Chicago put the pressure on the Red Wings and backup goalie Hank Bassen after a Reg Fleming shorthanded goal tied the game at one apiece.

McDonald's goal at 18:49 of the second period, when he cased a reboun off a Hull rush, would be the Cup clincher in a 5-1 Blackhawks win. McDonald was named the game's first star and he now had four straight Stanley Cups to his name.

He would go on to have successive 20-goal season the next two years, with the Blackhawks, reaching the finals again in 1962, but losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

After a season in Boston, McDonald found himself in the finals again in 1966 playing with Detroit. however he was on the losing end as the Canadiens defeated the Red Wings in six games, in light of a Conn Smythe performance from the Wings' Rogr Crozier.

Expansion brought personal success to McDonald, first scoring 22 goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins, then 21 and 25 the following years with the St. Louis Blues. In St. Louis, he was back in the Stanley Cup Finals but again fell to the Canadiens and Bruins in succesive seasons.

By 1972, McDonald was names captain of his hometown Winnipeg Jets in the new WHA. He would go on to score the franchise's first goal on October 12, 1972, retiring after two seasons with the Jets.


More on the Blackhawks '61 win at Habs Eyes on the Prize