Friday

Basil McRae

When you think of Basil McRae you probably would quickly label him as an untalented goon who lasted as long as he did only because he was a good fighter.

Not true.

McRae was an honest hard working player who played with more effort than most every night. He was also an incredibly popular leader on and off the ice.

McRae had modest tangible hockey skills, average at best. He was an okay skater but had a good first stride which aided him in his strong forechecking game. He had decent hockey instincts, and was a more-than-willing physical presence. Thus Basil carved out a role as a decent checker.

Of course McRae's other role was as the team's tough guy. With 2457 career NHL PIM, it takes no genius to figure out that he spent a lot of time in the penalty box. Four years in a row he had well over 300 PIM. He had 352 in 1986-87, 382 in 1987-88, 365 in 1988-89 and a league leading 351 in 1989-90. McRae had a knack for fighting, a trait that may have run in the family. His brother Chris was a minor league tough guy who had a stint in the NHL. The McRaes were cousins of former Commonwealth Games flyweight boxing champion Walter Henry.

Although he rarely had an opportunity to do much with the puck, Basil had better stickhandling skills than most players with his PIM totals. Although he had a weak shot, Basil was occasionally able to create a scoring chance with the loose puck that he would fight so hard to get.

McRae was also a great leader. A charismatic guy in the dressing room, he was a coach's delite. He knew how to make rookies and newcomers feel right at home. He kept the guys loose with his jokes and antics. His enthusiastic love of the game rubbed off on his teammates, and his team was the all better for it.

McRae was the 87th overall draft selection of the Quebec Nordiques in the 1980 Entry Draft. A year later he turned pro with the Nordiques’ organization, splitting his two pro seasons between Quebec and the Fredericton Express of the AHL. Basil played in just 42 NHL games with Quebec before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leaf for 1983-84 season.

Basil spent two uneventfull years with Toronto, again splitting his time between the Leafs and their AHL farm club (in St. Catharines). He appeared in just 4 games in two years with the Leafs before he was given his outright release.

Basil had a good last year in St. Catherines so the Detroit Red Wings signed him with the idea that he could fill in a minor league role. He played another strong season in the AHL, this time with the Adirondack Red Wings, before making the Detroit lineup full time in 1986-87.

Basil played the first 36 games in Detroit, scoring 2 goals and 4 assists with 193 PIM before he was traded back to the Quebec Nordiques. He finished the year strongly, scoring 9 goals and 14 assists in 33 games with the Nords, and adding another 149 PIM. He had a strong playoff too, scoring 3 times in 13 games and leading the whole league with 99 PIM!

It was a good time for Basil to show his stuff at the NHL level has his contract expired and he was again a free agent. The Nords let him go off to the Minnesota North Stars, where he is probably most associated with. Basil spent the next 5 seasons in Minny, where he was extremely popular with the fans and media.

McRae's best offensive season came in a Minnesota uniform in 1988-89 when he scored 12 goals, 19 assists and 31 points. However Basil's career highlite must have been the 1991 Cinderella Cup run the Stars embarked on.

"I remember that Stanley Cup drive in ’91 in Minnesota where we lost to Pittsburgh in six games in the Finals. That will always stick in my mind, especially the players that were on that team because we were definitely the underdogs every round and the only reason why we did as well as we did and advanced as well as we did is we were at that point the ultimate team. We really played as a team." said McRae.

After five seasons in Minnesota, Basil was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1992 Expansion Draft. He played in just 14 games with the Lightning before a trade to him to the St. Louis Blues.

McRae played parts of four seasons with the Blues before signing with the Chicago Blackhawks as a free agent for the 1996-97 campaign. Basil retired from pro hockey after that season with career NHL totals of 53 goals, 83 assists, 136 points and 2,457 penalty minutes in 576 regular season games while also adding 12 points and 349 penalty minutes in 78 playoff contests.

Basil McRae invested some of his NHL earnings into a junior hockey franchise, co-owning the London Knights with fellow former NHLer Dale Hunter. McRae, who attended classes at the University of St. Thomas during his off-seasons, became a financial advisor.

2 comments:

JKidd February 9, 2009 at 11:37 AM  

A great guy. I've had the honor of meeting him a few times, and he's just a great guy to talk hockey with, and is always willing to share some of the old war stories with you. Aside from off the ice, a guy on the ice, that never, ever, stopped doing what he does best - being a complete and utter pain in the ass to play against. Whether it was a well placed slash, a cross check, a chirp here or there - Basil was the ultimate pest... but, unlike 95% of the pests in the game today, he backed it all up, against all who called his number. A true class act, in many aspects of on ice, and off ice persona.

Bishopville Red,  March 26, 2011 at 7:15 PM  

Basil McRae has always been a running joke (No offense, BM!) with my friends for as long as we can remember. If anyone did something particularly good on the ice, someone would always chime in with "Reminded me of a young Basil McRae."

Others have tried to one-up that line, but it never works. A young Garth Butcher? A young Wili Plett? Nah.... Basil is untoppable!

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