Alvin ‘Ab’ McDonald, the first Winnipeg Jets captain, dies at age 82

Ab McDonald. (John Woods/CP)

WINNIPEG — Alvin "Ab" Brian McDonald, the first captain in Winnipeg Jets history, has died.

He was 82.

The Winnipeg native, who died Tuesday night after a battle with cancer, came home to captain the World Hockey Association’s Jets in their inaugural season in 1972. He also scored the Jets’ first goal.

"We at True North Sports & Entertainment and the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club are saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. McDonald," Jets governor Mark Chipman said in a statement.

"He was a legend in this city’s hockey history … As a Winnipegger, he made this city proud by also playing 14 seasons in the NHL and capturing four Stanley Cups. His reputation as an outstanding teammate carried over into his life after hockey.

"Off the ice, Mr. McDonald always represented our hockey community proudly. 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. 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."

McDonald won four straight Stanley Cups from 1958-1961 — three with the Montreal Canadiens and one with the Chicago Blackhawks.

"Just a super nice guy who mentored a lot of the young guys, including me," said former NHL goaltender and Winnipeg resident Joe Daley, who played with McDonald in four leagues. "I lost my father early in life and I looked up to Ab a lot for advice and he was just the kindest man. You would never know his accomplishments on the ice were as great as they were.

"He’s a four-time Stanley Cup winner and was the captain on many teams, and our first captain here in Winnipeg. Just a tremendous guy who was looked up to by many.

"And he loved Winnipeg. He came home every summer from playing hockey. He was just a guy who liked people."

McDonald also played with the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues before wrapping up his career by spending two seasons with the WHA Jets.

"He was very humble," Daley said. "If you didn’t know he was a hockey player, you could spend an hour with him and you might not find that out. He was humble. He never bragged about what he accomplished in the past. It was always the present that he was more interested in. He was just loved by everybody."

Daley and McDonald both came to the Jets in 1972.

"He has been looked up to by all the players that have ever come through Winnipeg. And to this day, I know that even the current Jets look up to Ab McDonald as being a great person and a mentor.

"I know I’ve had a weepy day today."

A five-time NHL all-star, McDonald is a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

McDonald and his wife, Pat, had been married for 60 years. They have three daughters and two sons.

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