Lanny McDonald can hardly remember a day since he turned pro that he hasn’t signed an autograph.
Unless he’s on vacation, the former sniper with the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Rockies has a Sharpie and a smile perpetually at the ready.
With his trademark moustache, of course, he is one of the most recognizable hockey players in the world.
Fans young and old flock to the Stanley Cup winner but they get much more than a scribble and a quick picture – they get the full McDonald treatment.
"What’s your name?" "Do you play hockey?" and "Are you good for your teachers?" are just some of the questions he’ll throw at the wide-eyed youngsters, none of whom were born when he retired in 1989. They are often nudged forward by their hockey-loving parents who remember the outrage when McDonald was traded from Toronto to Colorado in 1980 or when he scored the winning goal in the ’89 Cup final.
And if the kids look back in their scrapbooks years from now, they’ll be able to identify McDonald’s autograph as it would make any instructor of cursive writing proud.
"When I went off to play hockey, my dad told me to always sign my name so that people could read it. I’ve never forgotten that," he said.
Some athletes hardly break stride when signing cards or pictures but McDonald makes a point of ensuring he has a flat surface on which to write. He also avoids adding his number – a necessary indicator to identify the handiwork of many athletes – because he wants his signature to be able to stand on its own.
McDonald was one of 18 former pros playing in the Mike Keane Celebrity Classic at the MTS Iceplex on Thursday.
Lanny McDonald and Billy Smith are "too old" to carry a grudge.
The two hockey warriors went toe-to-toe in the the late '70s went McDonald played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Smith was a member of the New York Islanders. McDonald came out on top in the one-sided tilt - Smith started it by spearing the Leafs winger and then calling off one of his teammates who was going to step in for him - but whatever animosity that once existed is long gone.
"We laugh about it now," Smith said.
McDonald agreed, noting he lost his share of fights during his career, but then added with a smile, "I had to ice my hand after that fight but he had to ice his head."
The proceeds from the Mike Keane Celebrity Classic go towards the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation, the charitable arm of the NHL team and Continuity Care.
If you'd like to contribute to the cause, sponsor reporter Geoff Kirbyson's participation in the tournament. (He got to play defence with former Jet stalwart Dave Ellett on the Aikins-Western Financial team.)