Any hockey fans ever heard of Al MacNeil? Old-school Bruins fans might. I know Ken Dryden does. To be honest, I hadn't. Not until, at least, he introduced himself to us earlier today at TBSA Countryside in Clearwater.
It seems that he and his wife were walking around the mall and stopped to watch the skaters at the mall rink. Colin must have caught his eye. A few minutes later, the former NHL player and Stanley Cup-winning coach gave him an unsolicited compliment, especially about his skating backwards.
I'll tell you what. That doesn't happen every day. Though it's not uncommon for people to compliment Colin's skating abilities during his weekly small-ice sessions, none has ever volunteered that he played and coached in the NHL.
Of course, we thanked him, like the others, for his kind words and encouragement. And, yes, we were both pretty proud. As a journalist, though, I had one big question -- who was Al MacNeil. A quick search on Google not only confirmed his identity, but it also showed he has a role in NHL history.
After more than 500 NHL games as a defenseman, MacNeil, as Montreal's coach, played a hunch and started a certain rookie goalie (Ken Dryden) against the Bruins in the opening round of the 1970-71 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Habs upset the B's and went on to win their 17th out of a record 24 Stanley Cups.
Wikipedia tells me the man, a part of four Stanley Cup-winning organizations during his career, spent more than 50 years in professional hockey.
Granted, we know we're chasing a dream that's extremely hard to obtain. And we know there are people who think we're foolish for even thinking about it. It's instances like this, though, that fuel the dream. In the end, there's no better justice than proving people wrong.