Center Craig MacTavish played nearly 1,100 NHL games between 1979 and 1997. He was a tenacious checker and team leader who could also be dangerous in the offensive zone. The hard-nosed competitor was the last player in the NHL to ply his trade without a helmet. He entered the 2001-02 in his second year at the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
Born in London, Ontario, MacTavish spent two years at The University of Lowell, a Division II school in Massachusetts where he was an all-American in 1979. He was taken 153rd overall by the Boston Bruins in 1978 and recorded 28 points in 46 games as a rookie in 1979-80 after starting the year in the AHL. Over the next two seasons, the young pivot spent more time in the minors working on his overall game. He returned in 1982-83 as a solid checker and penalty killer and helped the club reach the semifinals.
After scoring 43 points in 1983-84, MacTavish was a involved in an automobile accident that forced him to miss the next season. He signed as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers and spent nearly nine years with the organization. MacTavish recorded four 20-goal seasons and played a major role on Edmonton's Stanley Cup triumphs in 1987, 1988 and 1990. In 1992 he was named team captain and held this position until he was traded to the New York Rangers late in the 1993-94 season.
The veteran pivot's ability to win face-offs and keep his cool in big games helped the Blueshirts win their first Stanley Cup since 1940. MacTavish split his last two seasons between the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues before retiring in 1997. After hanging up his skates he immediately looked to begin a career in coaching. The respected veteran spent two years as an assistant with the New York Rangers. In 1999-00, MacTavish was Kevin Lowe's assistant in Edmonton before taking over the bench boss job the next season. He guided the Oilers to 39 wins in his first years as an NHL coach and looked to take the club deep into the Western Conference playoffs in 2001-02.