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
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.