Although born in France while his father was serving with the Canadian Armed Forces, Paul MacLean moved to Canada at the age of two, and learned his hockey in places such as Coldwater Alberta, Chatham New Brunswick, and Antigonish Nova Scotia.
After a solid junior career, MacLean was drafted by the St.Louis Blues late in the 1978 Amateur Draft. Disillusioned at not making the Blues right away, he decided to attend Dalhousie University in Halifax and play for Canada's Olympic Team rather than play in the minors. The decision was sound, and MacLean feels that the year playing college hockey and for his country fast-tracked his hockey abilities, allowing him to excel once he stepped into the NHL on a full-time basis.
After appearing in but one game for the Blues, Paul MacLean was traded to the Winnipeg Jets in 1981. While playing regularly in Manitoba, the big winger blossomed on a line with Dale Hawerchuk. In his rookie season (1981-82), he scored 36 goals. In fact, in his seven seasons with the Jets, MacLean enjoyed three 30-goal seasons and three 40-goal campaigns.
During the 1984-85 season, he went on a tear and finished the season with a career-best 41 goals and 60 assists for 101 points. Winnipeg traded MacLean to Detroit for much-traveled Brent Ashton in 1988, and that season he added another 30-goal season to his resume. But a year later almost to the day, MacLean was part of a blockbuster deal. He and Tony McKegney were sent to Detroit for St.Louis for Adam Oates and Bernie Federko.
Returning to the team that originally drafted him, Paul MacLean enjoyed another thirty-goal season. It was his eighth, but unfortunately, also his last. In 1990-91, he tore rib cartilage, reducing his effectiveness and his games played to 37. He retired that season to take a scouting job with the St.Louis Blues. Although never selected to either the NHL's All-Star team, MacLean put up starring numbers. He retired after ten seasons with 324 goals, 349 assists and 673 points.