After two games with the Montreal Canadiens, the Nova Scotia-born McKinnon joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1926-27 season. No, not the baseball team. For five seasons in the late 1920s there was a short-lived NHL team in Pittsburgh also called the Pirates. And McKinnon, with 13 goals from the blue line in his rookie season, was one of the few exciting players.
McKinnon's offense went cold for a couple of seasons before returning to the 10 goal level in 1929-30. While he was inconsistent with his offense, only six defensemen during McKinnon's five year NHL career scored more goals.
The financially troubled Pirates moved to Philadelphia and became the Quakers in 1930-31 for one last ill-fated season. It was also the last NHL season for McKinnon who will forever rank fourth all time in career goals and points and second in penalty minutes for the NHL franchise almost no one remembers.
John McKinnon passed away in a car accident near Oak Park, Illinois in 1969.