Some individuals are so important and iconic, that all you need to hear is their first name. In the pantheon of the Calgary Flames, one player’s name invokes tremendous leadership, offensive prowess, and a superb choice in facial hair.
Lanny (McDonald) is #6 on our countdown.
Player, 1981-89; various Vice-President roles, 1989-2000; Executive Assistant of Hockey Operations, 2001-03
Originally from Hanna, Alberta – they’re forgiven for Nickleback as a result – McDonald starred with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers and was the fourth overall selection in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He went pro in 1973-74 and after a slow initial start, he became one of the most consistent (and well-liked) Leafs forwards of his era. Well on his way to being a Leafs legend, McDonald’s fate was changed due to an ongoing feud between owner Harold Ballard and captain Darryl Sittler that resulted in McDonald being traded to the lowly Colorado Rockies largely out of spite. (Sittler reportedly had a no-trade clause in his deal, so they traded his buddy instead just to mess with him.) McDonald was later traded to Calgary, which received the Flames from Atlanta in the interim, after a couple seasons in Denver.
Leading up to McDonald’s arrival, the Flames were in flux. Once a ragtag group in Atlanta, the club was still seeking an identity in Calgary. They had on-ice success in 1980-81, but they were looking for something to drive them and McDonald’s arrival gave them a strong player to anchor the centre position, as well as a veteran presence to help define the club’s identity for the years that followed. He was officially co-captain between 1983 and 1989.
It’s hard to argue that McDonald was anything but a spectacular success. In his first full season with the Flames, 1982-83, he set the single-season goal scoring record with 66 goals – nobody’s gotten close since. He won the Masterton Trophy for dedication and perseverance and was also voted a second team all-star at year-end. Later in his tenure, he was honoured for his extensive charitable work with the King Clancy Memorial Trophy.
McDonald played a hard style and he began to slow down as injuries took their toll as the ’80s wore on. He was limited to 51 games in the 1988-89 regular season, but was counted on from time to time in the playoff run and delivered. McDonald’s goal in Game 6 of the Cup Final broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Flames a lead that they never relinquished en route to capturing the Stanley Cup. It was the final game of McDonald’s career, as he retired following the Cup win.
Post-retirement, McDonald joined the Flames in a few business-side vice-president roles. He also served briefly in the club’s hockey operations department. He’s featured prominently within the community, and he’s also been a fixture in the Hockey Hall of Fame: he was inducted in 1992, then served nine years of the selection committee. He’s been the Hall’s chairman since 2015, and gets to make the calls to inform individuals that they’ve been inducted.
McDonald was an important figure in Flames history and helped the club find an identity after their arrival in Calgary. He was also really, really good on the ice, and he was a very important part of some of their best teams (including their very best team).
Top 50 Flames of All Time
Honourable mentions | #50 Brad Treliving | #49 Sonia Scurfield | #48 Curtis Glencross | #47 Colin Patterson | #46 Jiri Hudler | #45 Jim Peplinski | #44 Jim “Bearcat” Murray | #43 Nelson Skalbania | #42 Dion Phaneuf | #41 Reggie Lemelin | #40 Joel Otto | #39 Dan Bouchard | #38 Paul Reinhart | #37 Tom Lysiak | #36 Eric Vail | #35 Tim Hunter | #34 Al Coates | #33 Harvey the Hound | #32 Martin Gelinas | #31 Sergei Makarov | #30 Elias Lindholm | #29 Mikael Backlund | #28 Häkan Loob | #27 Matthew Tkachuk | #26 Doug Gilmour | #25 Jacob Markström | #24 Joe Mullen | #23 Robyn Regehr | #22 Gary Roberts | #21 Doug Risebrough | #20 Al MacNeil | #19 Craig Conroy | #18 Daryl & Byron Seaman | #17 Gary Suter | #16 Sean Monahan | #15 Kent Nilsson | #14 Mark Giordano | #13 Joe Nieuwendyk | #12 Mike Vernon | #11 Terry Crisp | #10 Theoren Fleury | #9 Johnny Gaudreau | #8 “Badger” Bob Johnson | #7 Al MacInnis | #6 Lanny McDonald