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Allister Wences MacNeil (born September 27, 1935 in Sydney, Nova Scotia) 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 CanadiensEdit

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. Ruel resigned 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. 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. MacNeil was demoted to head coach of the Canadiens' American Hockey League affiliate, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. MacNeil won three Calder Cup Championships (1972, 1976, 1977) in six years with the Voyageurs.

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

Atlanta/Calgary FlamesEdit

In 1979, MacNeil left his position as head coach of the Canadiens farm club, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, to take over the Atlanta Flames[2], 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 recordEdit

Team Year Regular season Post season
G W L T OTL Pts Division rank Result
MTL1970-71 5531159-(97)3rd in EastWon Stanley Cup
ATL1979-80 80353213-834th in PatrickLost in First Round
CGY1980-81 80392714-923rd in PatrickLost in Conf Finals
CGY1981-82 80293417-754th in PatrickLost in First Round
CGY2002-03 114520(75)5th in NorthwestMissed Playoffs
Total 306138113550

ReferencesEdit

  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. The Montreal Canadiens:100 Years of Glory, D’Arcy Jenish, p.236, Published in Canada by Doubleday, 2009, ISBN 978-0-385-66325-0

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