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

Winnipeg's hockey community is mourning the loss of Ab McDonald, who won four Stanley Cups and was the first captain of the Winnipeg Jets.

McDonald won 4 Stanley Cups, was first team captain for Winnipeg Jets

Hockey legend Ab McDonald died at the age of 82 on Tuesday. Born in Winnipeg, he played 14 seasons in the NHL and capturing four Stanley Cups. (CBC archives )

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.

Ab McDonald points to Jean Béliveau in a photo of their 1960 Stanley Cup winning team. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

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.

McDonald scored the first goal for the Winnipeg Jets in 1972 in the World Hockey Association. (CBC archives )

He finished his NHL career with 182 goals and 248 assists in 762 regular season games. He added 21 goals and 29 assists in 84 Stanley Cup playoff games. 

'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. 

McDonald's NHL career began with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1957-58 season. He won three consecutive Stanley Cups with the team. (CBC archives )

"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. 

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

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. 

Condolences pour in from former teams 

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."

In 1994, Ab McDonald spoke with CBC News about his hockey career, 4 Stanley Cups and being the first team captain for the Winnipeg Jets. 4:38

Last year, McDonald appeared in a video for the team, reflecting on his most memorable moments in a Jets' jersey. 

In a statement, the Chicago Blackhawks said McDonald will forever be connected with the1961 Stanley Cup-winning team. 

McDonald was very involved in the Blackhawks Alumni Association upon his retirement, "and made it a priority to give back to the game that gave so much to him," the statement says. 

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