Craig MacTavish

Craig MacTavish was Boston's 9th choice 153rd overall in the 1978 Amateur Draft. The London, Ontario native was in the midst of playing two years of NCAA hockey with the University of Massachusetts Lowell, from 1977 to 1979, but he would leave school early to turn pro in the Bruins' farm system.

MacTavish spent the next several years splitting time between the Bruins and various AHL teams. He finally made the Bruins for good in 1982-83 and played two full seasons with them.

He was just coming into his own in Boston when he was involved in a tragic incident in January of 1984. MacTavish's 1983 Datsun collided with a 1976 Ford Pinto station wagon driven by 26-year-old Kim Lea Radley of West Newfield, Mass. Immediately falling unconscious, Ms. Radley died of her injuries three days later. In May of 1984, MacTavish plead guilty to vehicular homicide, a crime which carried a mandatory year in prison without parole. He also faced a $10,000,000 civil suit from the Radley family. That case was settled out of court.

After missing the 1984-85 season and due to circumstances surrounding the accident, MacTavish and Bruins agreed it would be impossible for him to continue his career in Boston. MacTavish simply couldn't attempt to play in the city where he was convicted for vehicular homicide. Considering the seriousness of MacTavish's offense the Bruins really had no choice but to release him because of it. The publicity of having him stay with the team would have been extremely negative. So Bruin's boss Harry Sinden did him a big favor by releasing him. The move effectively gave MacTavish a second chance because it allowed him to start his career again.

Despite his off ice behavior it was pretty obvious that MacTavish was still considered to be an NHL caliber player. However because of the bad publicity involving the accident, many teams shied away from the crafty center. Craig finally did get his second chance, with the Edmonton Oilers in 1985.

"Mac T" proved to be an irreplaceable asset for the Oilers as he pivoted the checking line for close to 9 seasons and 3 Stanley Cup championships. He was also named as the Oilers captain from 1992 until 1994. Although his job was to do check the opposition so guys like Gretzky and Messier could light up the scoreboard, MacTavish posted some pretty decent numbers too. A strong skater, he scored 20 goals in 4 different seasons. MacTavish was a strong body checker, shot blocker and a great face-off specialist.

Late in the 1994 season, Craig was traded to the New York Rangers. He was an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season so the Oilers were glad to trade him to New York in exchange for a young kid named Todd Marchant. The Rangers were glad to pick up the savvy veteran for the playoff run. MacTavish joined several ex- Oilers including Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe and Adam Graves en route to helping the Rangers win their first Cup in over 50 years.

MacTavish took full advantage of his free agent status in the summer of 1994 when he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers where he played a season and a half before he was traded to St. Louis in 1996 in exchange for Dale Hawerchuk in what amounted to a salary dump for the Blues. MacTavish completed the 1996 season and also played the 1996-97 season before he retired from the National Hockey League.

Upon his retirement, Craig instantly became the answer to a popular trivia question. Who is the last player to play in the NHL without a helmet? Craig was the last player prior to the NHL rule change that made helmets mandatory to retire from the NHL.

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.

An obsessed student of the game, MacTavish turned to coaching after hanging up his skates. His teams definitely featured that MacTavish flavour. His teams were always diligent defensive players, strong on face-offs and selfless shot blockers. The fiercely loyal and very successful coach returned to Edmonton where he returned the Oilers to the Stanley Cup finals in 2006.

MacTavish has said that he lives with the vehicle accident every day. He became very active in charitable work after his prison sentence, including aiding police efforts to curb drunken driving in Edmonton. He has also served as honorary chairman of Northern Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation.


Anonymous,  9:31 AM  

my family met him in penticton hockey school in 2008 and he was very decent and polite to us .Thanks for taking the time to talk to me i'll never forget it.He is proof that people deserve a second chance

Anonymous,  7:41 PM  

I enjoyed watching MacT play - sadly that his personal tragedy overshadowed so much. He learned from it and served his sentence. Nothing anyone can say or do to him would be worse than having to live with the consequences of his actions. I hope that he has forgiven himself and has been able to live a life moving forward.

Anonymous,  7:30 AM  

MacTavish is my favorite of those 80's Oilers teams even though he wasn't there for the whole time. I think being old school without the helmet checking everyone was the reason. He is one of the best examples of a player getting a second chance and making very good things of it.

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