NATION PROFILE: CRAIG MACTAVISH

Craig MacTavish played the game the way he coached the game: intelligently. MacT was not the scorer his Oiler linemates were, and he did not possess great size or a passing gear, but he took the talents God gave him and made himself into a very valuable player. 

BEFORE THE DRAFT

Last Team: Lowell (ECAC Division II)                  
Birthplace: London, Ontario (Canada)
Hometown: London, Ontario
   
PRE-DRAFT STATISTICS
Year Team League GP G A TP PIM
1976-77 London Jr. B
1977-78 Lowell ECAC-II 21 26 19 45

PRE-DRAFT AWARDS AND HONORS
ECAC Division-II Rookie of Year:
1977-78 (Lowell)
ECAC Division-II All-Star First Team: 1977-78 (Lowell)
New England Division-II All-Star First Team: 1977-78 (Lowell)

Drafted by the Boston Bruins, 153rd overall (9th round) in 1978.

courtesy hockeydraftcentral

EARLY CAREER

Craig MacTavish was a legend in Lowell, setting all kinds of scoring records for them and then turning pro, 1979 fall. He played 46 games in the NHL that year, but in following seasons kept getting sent down for one reason or another and didn’t play a full year in the biggest league until 1982-83. Even then, he didn’t feel established as an NHL player:

  • MacT fall 1983: “When you score 10 goals, as I did last year, you’re expendable. I did a lot of skating in the summer. When your job is on the line, you have to come to camp in good shape. You can’t afford to get yourself in good shape once you get here.”

In 1983-84, MacTavish blossomed (scored 20 goals) and the future looked bright for the young Boston Bruins forward. The events of the night of January 25, 1984 will not be covered here but are readily available in newspaper archives. Boston dropped MacTavish from its roster while he was suspended from the NHL and incarcerated in the 1984-85 season, making him an unrestricted free agent. While still behind bars, he signed a two-year contract with Edmonton on Feb. 1, 1985.

MEMORABLE MOMENTS

  • Member of 4 Stanley Cup winning teams: 1987, 1988, 1990, 1994 (NYR).
  • Coach of the 2006 Stanley Cup final Edmonton Oilers.
  • Edmonton Top First-Year Oiler: 1985-86
  • Edmonton Top Defensive Forward: 1987-88, 1989-90, 1990-91, 1991-92
  • Edmonton Captain: October 1992 until March 21, 1994.
  • Edmonton Records: Most consecutive games played (519 from Oct. 12, 1986, to Jan. 2, 1993)
  • Turned down offer from Edmonton general manager Glen Sather to become Oilers head coach in 1994 because he wanted to continue his playing career.
  • Was last NHL player to play regularly without a helmet, although he did wear a helmet during the years he played in Boston.
  • Got into scuffle with Calgary mascot Harvey the Hound while coaching Edmonton on Jan. 20, 2003. MacTavish pulled the mascot’s floppy tongue off his costume and threw it into the crowd. It was one of the greatest events in the history of recorded time.

THE LAST MAN STANDING

THE TRADE

Traded to NY Rangers by Edmonton for Todd Marchant, March 21, 1994. Ironically, Marchant would serve a very similar role (2-way C) in Edmonton and deliver quality play over a long period.

LEGACY

Center Craig MacTavish played nearly 1,100 NHL games between 1979 and 1997. He was a tenacious checker and team leader who could also be dangerous in the offensive zone. The hard-nosed competitor was the last player in the NHL to ply his trade without a helmet.

-HHOF

The London, Ontario native retired having played in 1093 games. He scored 213 goals and 267 assists for 480 points. He participated in 193 playoff games, scoring 20 goals and 38 assists for 58 post season points.

After his impressive playing career, MacTavish entered the coaching profession and enjoyed great success with the Oilers when they had the horses. It is a credit to his coaching acumen that MacT finished 49 games over .500 as an Oilers coach and took the team to G7 SCF the one time he had a team able to go deep into the playoffs.

He is now in upper management with the Edmonton Oilers.

  • Lowetide

    lol. Someone said his role is to be in the room at the exact point where saying “are you sure you want to do that?” has max impact.

    I loved his moment in Oil Change where he said July 1 free agent day is a day you can make some huge mistakes.

    Yes. Yes you can.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Don’t forget, “Reasoner has a lot of the same qualities as Joe Sakic”. That one was a doosie!

      Gotta admit though, I still like the guy, despite a couple of obvious blind spots. Reasoner and Peterson can be attributed to literally “playing without a helmet”

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    somehow I missed that story about MacT. before my time.

    It’s amazing that he’s managed to overcome it and in hindsight that stint looks pretty short… of course Heatley got probation so…

    at any rate, my memories start in the late 80s and I remember his hatless head skulking around and being an oiler, or being awesome.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Nice. I took a look around on that Telegraph page. The NHL standings are the season of the Oilers first Stanley Cup. 38-8-4 after 50 games and scored 296 goals – almost 6 per game (and giving up almost 4)! Nutty. The 80’s! Times of excess.

    …and if you look in the transactions section, the NHL had suspended Mark Messier for 6 games. I wonder what transgression he did to deserve that?

    • The Soup Fascist

      I didn’t check the newspaper article as I already know the story, but I think that suspension was for two-handing Tomas Gradin over the helmet.

      It might have been the suspension for breaking Macoun’s face with his fist, but I think that was the next season, around Christmas time.

  • The Oilers need this type of player, and no Horcoff is not the same player.

    Mac-T was a Beast on the ice, tenacious in your face and never seemed to lose a draw, tough as nails too.

    An excellent leader on a team full of leaders.

    • The Soup Fascist

      If I remember correctly there were a few teams interested in MacTavish at the time. There was hue and cry at the time that Sinden gave his buddy Slats the inside track and a discount.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Say what you want about MacT – and there were times he drove me crazy when he coached – his M.O. has been a smart, straight forward, and dedicated approach in all he has done.

    I hope there are not too many cheap shots regarding his conviction 30 years ago. He did his time, made ammends with the young lady’s family and from all accounts has been a solid member of the community.

    People are free to comment on what they want, obviously, my opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s – and I am sure I have stepped over the line with a tasteless comment or two. But for me, the actions of a 25 year old, three decades ago are not something to dwell on, IMO.

  • paul wodehouse

    When I was going to the U of A back in the early 90’s, my buddy returned with a story from an Oilers game vs Calgary at Northlands. In the beer-fueled mayhem that infused the rivalry at the time, he told of a *totally outrageous* chant hurled by a group of Flames fans (not in their home rink!):

    “5 banners, 5 arrests, 2 convictions, 1 death”

    Obviously they were referring to this case, and it could have referred as well to Klima’s troubles with the law. And others I can’t fully remember.

  • Leef O'Golin

    I still remember an article on him in the early 80’s in Hockey Illustrated: “You are Craig MacTavish and this might be your last chance….”. There was an accompanying photo of him in a Bruins jersey and helmet (!). It briefly described how he had been sent down by the Bruins time and again and was running out of time to stick in the NHL. Whatever happened to that magazine??

  • paul wodehouse

    @BUBBASNICKEY

    …don’t recall Fuhr being arrested or convicted on anything…other than in the Court of SI…the names in 5 arrests and 2 convictions is something I’d wait for from a Flames fan…even then who’d u believe?

  • Kinger_OIL

    I’ve posted about McT before: in my opinion he is quite over-rated as a player. As Oiler fans, we also over-rate a guy who was middle of the pack scoring. All Stanley Cup teams have the 3rd or 4rth line checker story that “does all the little things right”. He just happened to be that guy on a team that won a lot of Cups. Anyone of dozens of players could have performed his role at that time. Not taking away what he did, or that he took full advantage of the situation, just saying that MacT made no difference in the Cups won by the Oil. That has always been my problem with him as a coach: he over-emphasized grind and heart, and discounted talent. In fact, I remember one interview when he was talking about the OIL, and how important guys like him were to the team. Its true: thye are, but they don’t win the cup with MacT, they win with the stars…

    • Mark-LW

      Do you remember a team we had in Edmonton back in 2006 that came one game away from winning the Stanley cup with MacTavish as the coach? That had a lot to do with grinding and checking

  • RexLibris

    My personal favourite of MacT’s quotes was “listening to Brian Burke sometimes is like trying to take a drink from a firehose”.

    Beautiful.

    I loved watching he and Buchberger get on the ice. Whenever I saw them skating around I knew the Oilers were safe, no goals against and the best forecheck a coach could ask for.

    His is a name deserving of a place in the Oilers pantheon.

  • RexLibris

    Watching MacT was like watching a NASCAR race, just waiting for a crash to happen.

    “I’m just waiting for him to fall and crack his head stupid head open!!” as my Mom used to say.

  • Kinger_OIL

    Mark-LW: Dude, that team was the 8th seed, squeaked into playoffs, then caught lightening in a bottle, with a goalie who stood on his head, and without Pronger you can have as much grit and heart as you want, you go nowhere (refer to Oilers next year, same heart and grit, not same elite talent), plus a great first line… Fun to watch, and sometimes sh%t happens, and a team gets together. On that team MacT = Pisani, or Reasoner, or Peca. MacT’s are dime a dozen, but when they are on cup winners they get more credit then they deserve. When they are lucky to be on 4 cup teams they get way more credit… MacT good player no doubt, but was a passenger on those teams, who could have replaced by dozens of others in the league.

    • Zipdot

      Dude, there are 690 players in the NHL. Yes, you can “replace” a player with one of the other 689, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the contributions of THIS player, Craiggy Mackers, and he was a great fit for the team. I don’t think he is overrated at all, I think most people know exactly what MacT contributed…

      What is your point again? That MacT could have been swapped out with someone else? Oh, okay. Great point. ???

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      yeah, guys that can be trusted to be out there taking a defensive zone faceoff with 2 seconds left in the biggest game in 50 years for one of the most storied teams in sports are a dime a dozen.

  • Zipdot

    Anyone who believes a team with just stars don’t know squat. It takes talent and.depth. Do the Oilers win without MacT timely shorthanded goals and great faceoff wins and lock down defence in the last 5 minutes. The Oilers had incredible talent, but the McClellands, Lindstroms, MacT’s, Hunters scored a pile of big goals.