There are precious few athletes in Calgary’s history that, simply by mentioning one name, can make someone smile. Surely, “Iggy,” “Theo,” and “Kipper” have that effect on Flames fans (grimaces from other fan bases in Theo’s case). However, “Lanny” is one name that stands above the others.
Today, he was recognized once again for not only his playing career, but for the person he is.
It’s been tough sledding around these parts the past week or so. However, a bit of genuinely good news for Flames fans came today as it was announced that Lanny McDonald will be a part of the 2017 class inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Fittingly, Lanny is the first Flames player inducted into CSHOF, though Doc Seaman was inducted in 2012.
Briefly on CSHOF: it opened in 1955 at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto where it lasted until 2006 when it was demolished to build BMO field. After a national bidding process, Calgary was chosen for the new 40,000 square foot site on Canada Olympic Park, which was completed in 2011. If you are a Calgarian and have not visited CSHOF at Winsport, you are most certainly missing out. Go there, it’s worth it.
The standard for induction into CSHOF is incredibly high, higher than the average Canadian probably imagines, and simply being an exceptional hockey player likely won’t be good enough to get you in. For instance, simply being a Hockey Hall of Famer is generally not good enough.
Given the fact that it is so difficult to gauge one athlete’s successes against another, CSHOF’s induction committee places a great deal of importance on the character of the potential inductee. In Lanny’s case, his character is likely one of his strongest assets, making him an excellent choice for induction.
Through his passion, talent, statistics, and, obviously, facial hair, Lanny left an indelible mark on the Flames franchise (though, it should be reminded, the Flames aren’t the only franchise that Lanny played with). As far as his hockey bona fides, Lanny’s place among the game’s greatest is unquestioned.
Have a look here to see how many Flames franchise top 10s Lanny still sits comfortably in (and that’s after playing in Calgary during the twilight of his career). After being the first Flame to have his number retired in 1990, Lanny was the first former Flame inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992, and was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.
One of the most remarkable things about Lanny is that, regardless of whether or not you were alive to see him play for the Flames, you likely have a memory of him. Whether it was through his efforts with the Special Olympics, Children’s Miracle Network, Flames Foundation, or any of his other charitable endeavours, Lanny leveraged his celebrity to benefit the community, especially in Calgary.
As such, so many Calgarians have stories about personal interactions with Lanny, approachability being one of his most marked characteristics. My own father, being lucky enough to have lunch with Lanny in the mid-90s, recalled that Lanny “made sure I understood that hockey was first and foremost a game played to have fun. He told me that too many kids get sick of the game and lose their passion too early on.”
As is evident from video, photograph, and perhaps most poignantly, your own memories, Lanny never lost his own passion for hockey. I think now, with the Flames postseason shrouded in frustration and disappointment, is as good a time as any for some levity. I want to hear your Lanny stories in the comments.