‘A first-class Winnipegger’: Hockey legend Ab McDonald dead at 82

Winnipeg’s hockey community is mourning the loss of NHL legend Ab McDonald. 

McDonald died Tuesday night. He was 82.

Born in Winnipeg, McDonald’s NHL career began with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1957-58 season. He went on to win three consecutive Stanley Cups with the team.

He then joined the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1960-61 season where he won his fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. He also went on to play with Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.

McDonald joined the Jets in 1972 for the inaugural season of the ill-fated World Hockey Association. He was the first captain in the team’s history, and scored its first goal. He retired from his professional hockey career after the 1973-74 season.

‘First-class Winnipegger’ 

Former NHLer Joe Daley, who now runs a sports memorabilia store in Winnipeg, had been close friends with McDonald since the 1960s, playing with him on various teams, including the Jets. 

Ab McDonald, Ralph Backstrom and Bernie Geoffrion celebrate after Game 4 of the 1959 Stanley Cup finals on April 16, 1959. (legendsofhockey.net)

“I hope they remember him as a first-class Winnipeger who loved his hometown, loved his sport, loved people, and just genuinely a nice guy,” he said of the man he considered his mentor. “We always lose the ones we love before we want to.”

McDonald loved to play guitar, Daley says, and would  play a tune any time there was a team get-together. 

In his later years, Daley says, McDonald was enjoying his retirement and was always willing to share himself with others, whether it be a golf tournament or a charity event. 

“He wanted to be around people, loved people, and certainly loved his family. He had a beautiful family — has a beautiful family — and I know they’re gonna miss him,” he said. 

True North chairman Mark Chipman called McDonald a legend of Winnipeg’s hockey history, whose reputation as an outstanding teammate carried over into his life after hockey. 

“Whether it was at a Manitoba Moose game or a Jets’ game, he was quick with a smile and willing to engage in a talk about the game he loved,” Chipman said in a statement issued by the Winnipeg Jets.

“As a valuable contributor to our organization, he was influential in helping us reconnect with such an important group in our history — the Winnipeg Jets Alumni and Friends. He will be greatly missed.”