February 22, 2016

Bob MacMillan

There are two types of arenas in Canada, and both bring out the highest of emotions in seemingly all citizens. One is the hockey arena. The other is the political arena.

Bob MacMillan did very well at both of them.

MacMillan played right wing for 753 NHL games, bouncing around with the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, the Atlanta/Calgary Flames, the Colorado Rockies/New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks. He may be best remembered for winning the Lady Byng trophy in 1979 when he exploded for 37 goals and 108 points while only taking 14 minutes in penalties. He may also be well remembered as the man, along with Don Lever, who was traded by Calgary to the Rockies in exchange for the man who would become Mr. Flames - Lanny McDonald.

Upon his retirement from hockey in 1985 (thanks to a badly separated shoulder) this proud native of Prince Edward Island returned home and coached senior hockey in Charlottetown initially. He soon became involved in local politics, advancing to the point where from 2000-2003 he served for the right wing Progressive Conservative government as a MLA.

MacMillan once was asked if there was any parallels between hockey and politics.

"A lot of it is teamwork. You have to work with other caucus members and you have to give a little bit to get a little bit sometimes. There's a certain amount of hard work to it, and there's a tremendous amount of strategy involved. Good or bad, every decision that's made, you're looking at the political fallout of that decision. Sometimes you make the political decision and you know there's going to be a backlash. Sometimes you're willing to pay the price and sometimes you say `We just can't do it.' You have to pick your battle. Sometimes you have to back off something. There's no use raising the minimum wage to double the minimum wage if you're going to put the provincial budget way in the hole and you're tossed out in the next election anyway."

So how did he get involved with the provincial government?

"I got a phone call asking me if I would consider running," MacMillan says. "The seat I was running for--we basically have two main parties up here, conservative and liberal--was a liberal seat. Through lots of hard work and an amazing amount of background people that helped out as far as campaign team, we had enough to win the day. Probably 99% of the people didn't think I would win, that I could unseat this liberal sitting member."

It must have been quite the adjustment for the former hockey star nicknamed "Mac The Knife."

"I started at the bottom," he says. "It's been a real learning curve. There's just a responsibility of being part of government, making decisions for the people. It's not something any member of government takes lightly. You represent a certain district and you stand up for their needs and their concerns. At the same time, you have to be open enough so that the policies you make represent the most people."

In recent years MacMillan has served as an amateur scout for the Calgary Flames and owning a Charlottetown restaurant. He has also enjoyed his sons, Logan and Cole, hockey careers. Logan was a first round draft pick of Anaheim back in 2007, though he never did make it to the NHL. Cole was never drafted out of junior and moved on to the University of PEI afterwards.

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