Al MacNeil

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Al MacNeil
1963 Topps Al MacNeil.jpg
Born (1935-09-27) September 27, 1935 (age 78)
Sydney, NS, CAN
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 180 lb (82 kg; 12 st 12 lb)
Position Centre
Shot Left
Played for Toronto Maple Leafs
Montreal Canadiens
Chicago Black Hawks
New York Rangers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Playing career 1956–1970

Allister Wences MacNeil (born September 27, 1935) is a former National Hockey League player and coach. He was the first person from the Maritime region of Canada to be a head coach in the NHL.[1]

He played parts of eleven seasons in the National Hockey League as a rugged defenceman with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Black Hawks, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Upon retiring as a player, MacNeil turned to coaching with the Montreal Voyageurs of the American Hockey League, top farm club of the Canadiens, for the 1969–70 season. After a successful debut, MacNeil became an assistant coach to Claude Ruel of the NHL Canadiens for the 1970–71 season.

Montreal Canadiens[edit]

During that season, the Habs struggled for a good portion of the season, at one point in danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight year—something that hadn't happened since they missed the playoffs three years in a row from 1919 to 1922. Ruel resigned 25 games into the season and MacNeil took the helm; meanwhile, the club swung a major trade to net top scoring left wing Frank Mahovlich from the Detroit Red Wings. The Canadiens rallied to qualify for the playoffs as third seed in their division, then MacNeil led the team to an unexpected Stanley Cup championship. The Habs stunned the heavily favoured Boston Bruins in the opening round of the playoffs, and then defeated the Minnesota North Stars and Chicago Black Hawks, winning the latter series after having been behind 3–2.

Crucial to the Stanley Cup victory was MacNeil's decision to use rookie goaltender Ken Dryden in the playoffs despite Dryden having played only six regular-season games in 1970–71. MacNeil was presumably impressed that Dryden won all these games, allowing only nine goals (1.65 GAA). Another crucial choice was having rookie Rejean Houle mark the Black Hawks' goalscorer Bobby Hull. Houle was nicknamed the "shadow of Bobby Hull" as Hull managed to score only one even-strength goal in the series.

Unfortunately, MacNeil had a frosty relationship with most of the team's francophone players, most notably Henri Richard. He was the first Canadiens coach in recent memory who couldn't speak French at all. When MacNeil benched Richard during the final series against the Black Hawks, Richard publicly criticised the coach, calling him incompetent. In game seven held at Chicago, being tied at 2–2 after the first two periods, the Canadiens scored the winning goal early in the third to take the series and the championship, with Richard scoring both the equalizer and game winner. MacNeil and Richard hugged at the end of the game, but that did little to patch up their differences. Winning the Cup, however, was not enough to save MacNeil's job; he was demoted to head coach of the Canadiens' American Hockey League affiliate, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, while the fluently bilingual Scotty Bowman succeeded him as head coach of the Habs. MacNeil won three Calder Cup Championships (1972, 1976, 1977) in six years with the Voyageurs.

On Oct. 10, 2013 it was announced MacNeil had been named to the AHL's 2014 Hall of Fame class, alongside Bob Perreault, John Slaney and Bill Dineen.[2]

He later returned to the Canadiens winning two more Stanley Cups as Director of Player Personnel in 1978 and 1979.

Atlanta/Calgary Flames[edit]

In 1979, MacNeil left the Canadiens to take over the Atlanta Flames,[3] just before the team moved to Calgary. He lasted three seasons as head coach of the Calgary Flames before moving into a number of management-related capacities within the Flames organization. MacNeil won his fourth Stanley Cup in 1989 as Calgary's assistant general manager

On December 10, 2001, MacNeil returned to head coaching duties after almost two decades when the Flames head coach at the time, Greg Gilbert, was suspended for a period of two games for his role in a brawl in a game with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. When Gilbert was fired in the next season due to the Flames' poor performance, MacNeil once again assumed interim head coaching duties before Darryl Sutter was hired.

MacNeil has been involved in professional hockey for more than 50 years as a player, coach, assistant manager and director of hockey operations.

Coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular season Post season
G W L T OTL Pts Division rank Result
MTL 1970–71 55 31 15 9 - (97) 3rd in East Won Stanley Cup
ATL 1979–80 80 35 32 13 - 83 4th in Patrick Lost in First Round
CGY 1980–81 80 39 27 14 - 92 3rd in Patrick Lost in Conf Finals
CGY 1981–82 80 29 34 17 - 75 4th in Patrick Lost in First Round
CGY 2002–03 11 4 5 2 0 (75) 5th in Northwest Missed Playoffs
Total 306 138 113 55 0


  1. ^ The Montreal Canadiens:100 Years of Glory, D’Arcy Jenish, p.197, Published in Canada by Doubleday, 2009, ISBN 978-0-385-66325-0
  2. ^ AHL Hall of Fame Class of 2014 Set
  3. ^ The Montreal Canadiens:100 Years of Glory, D’Arcy Jenish, p.236, Published in Canada by Doubleday, 2009, ISBN 978-0-385-66325-0

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Claude Ruel
Head coach of the Montreal Canadiens
Succeeded by
Scotty Bowman
Preceded by
Fred Creighton
Head coach of the Atlanta Flames
Succeeded by
Calgary Flames head coach
Preceded by
Atlanta Flames head coach
Head coach of the Calgary Flames
Succeeded by
Bob Johnson
Preceded by
Greg Gilbert
Head coach of the Calgary Flames
Succeeded by
Darryl Sutter