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Top 100 Goalies: No. 82 — Kirk McLean

Any hockey fan from the mid-1990s remembers ‘The Save,’ but it’s unfair to limit his legacy to that single play.


Game 7, 1994 Western Conference quarterfinal, overtime, and the Calgary Flames have a juicy opportunity to eliminate the Vancouver Canucks. Theo Fleury charges down the right wing with Robert Reichel on a 2-on-1 and wires a perfect pass. It looks like a tap-in for Reichel but, somehow, defying the laws of human reflexes, Kirk McLean makes a miraculous toe save. The Canucks end up winning the game in double overtime and crusade all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. McLean’s save is easily the most important in Canucks history and one of the most iconic in NHL history. It’s his defining accomplishment.

McLean was more than just ‘The Save,’ however. He was a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist who spent most of the 1990s as Vancouver’s starter and led the franchise in every major stat category until Roberto Luongo’s arrival. In an era when Patrick Roy and mentor Francois Allaire popularized the butterfly style, McLean was an effective standup goalie, a throwback to an earlier time. He relied more on positioning than acrobatics. That made ‘The Save’ that much more surprising and impressive.

McLean helped the Canucks become a championship threat in one of the franchise’s most successful eras, the Pavel Bure/Trevor Linden years. McLean’s career petered out by the time he reached his 30s, as his style began to expose him. He then spent several seasons as the Colorado Avalanche goaltending coach.

Today, at 52, he works with the B.C. government on a public awareness campaign to fight the stigma associated with substance abuse. He was touched by it during his playing career, where he witnessed teammates who struggled with addiction, and wants to educate the public on mental health.

Born: June 26, 1966, Willowdale, Ont.
NHL Career: 1986-2001
Teams: NJ, Van, Car, Fla, NYR
Stats: 245-262-72, 3.26 GAA, .887 SP, 22 SO
All-Star: 1 (Second-1)


Wayne Gretzky scored career goal No. 802 on March 23, 1994, passing Gordie Howe for the all-time lead. It was a memorable moment, with Gretzky running on his skates in celebration. The netminder: Kirk McLean.


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