Former NHL forward Iain Duncan made his mark with a physical style in a 12-year pro career that include two championships with the Toledo Storm. Duncan, a Toronto native, played at Bowling Green State University and helped the Falcons win a national championship in 1984. Drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 1983, Duncan scored 19 goals and had 23 assists in his first full NHL season in 1987. The following year, Duncan collected 44 points (14 G, 30 A). While a multitude of injuries ended his NHL career, it also led to a memorable three-season stint with the Storm. In his first season Duncan led the team with 40 goals and 50 assists as the Storm won its first ECHL title in 1993. The next season, Duncan racked up 17 points in 14 playoff games to help Toledo repeat. Duncan, 47, is a youth coach and lives part time in Toledo. His son, Brody, 16, is following in his skates.
Your thoughts on Winnipeg getting an NHL team back?
“I am very excited as are the people of Manitoba. When season tickets went on sale, there were 13,000 season tickets sold in the first four minutes. The people of Winnipeg and surrounding area were very upset when the Jets left in 1996 to move to the desert [Phoenix]. This time around the fans and city officials are going to make sure that this team never thinks of moving.”
What kind of hockey town is Winnipeg?
“Winnipeg is a great hockey city. The Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League had a great fan base as the farm team for the Vancouver Canucks. The reason the Jets left in 1996 was because the city didn’t want to help fund a new arena. Then the city figured it out that they did need a new downtown facility and funded a new arena in downtown Winnipeg.”
In this era in the NHL, there is a clear priority about seriously treating and preventing concussions. How is that different from when you played?
The NHL and all major sports are concentrating on the prevention and treatment of concussions, and I think that is great for the athletes and their families. With advances in medical treatment and evaluations, you cannot ‘trick’ or ‘fake’ your way though concussion tests as you could have in the past. The NHL has procedures in place. The player does not have the authority anymore to say, ‘Hey, I’m fine –— let me back in the game.’
Your thoughts on the NHL playoffs?
“The Boston Bruins won Lord Stanley’s Cup, so I guess Canada is going to have to wait a few more years to bring the Cup back to a Canadian city. Hmm, maybe Winnipeg? The playoffs have been great. There have been big hits, overtimes, and many Game 7’s. The finals have been very physical.”
What do you think of the CCHA losing teams to the Big Ten and undergoing changes?
“The CCHA has a lot of work to do to get hooked up with another league. I think that Bowling Green and the other teams that are remaining are looking at getting involved with the WCHA, which is a very strong conference but will add to travel expenses in the future. I wish the CCHA didn’t change but the mighty dollar has spoken and universities are always looking for a way to make more money.”
What were the highlights of your career with the Storm?
“Winning in double overtime at home to defeat Wheeling in Game 6 was magical for our first championship. I was amazed at the crowds at the Sports Arena. Visiting teams hated coming to play Toledo. I’m not sure if it was the fans that made visiting teams scared or our team. I think it was a little of both. In overtime in Game 1 of the Riley Cup playoffs against the Raleigh IceCaps, our goalie Dave Gagnon went to play the puck in the corner and fell. As the Raleigh player lofted the puck into an open net, I did a ‘Superman dive’ with my stick stretched out in front of me and the puck hit my stick. We would score a few minutes later in overtime to take a 1-0 lead in the series and eventually win our second consecutive Riley Cup.”
How would you describe your playing style?
“I was a physical player, good hands, slow feet, smart with the puck and a never-give-up attitude. I tried to lead by example, working hard, hitting everything that I can and scoring a few goals here and there! As I like to say, ‘It’s not how fast you get there, but what you do when you get there.’?”
How’s your health these days and was enduring the pain worth it?
“My health is pretty good other than the 15-plus surgeries I have had on my knees [eight], shoulder [three], wrist/hand [two] and nine broken noses and missing teeth. The one thing that will bother me for the rest of my life is my fractured sternum which was the reason I had to retire from pro hockey. I have to wear a pain patch every day as well as going to physical therapy and getting an injection into my chest cavity every three or four months. I call it my ‘oil change!’”
How have you stayed involved in hockey?
“My son, Brody, is a very talented hockey player and I have followed his career very closely. Also, I have been coaching hockey for the past eight years at different levels and running hockey schools. I am the sales director in the U.S. for a hockey stick company called Blue Ice Hockey and a golf club company called MD Golf.”
If you were commissioner of hockey for a day, what would you do?
“I would make the netting around the rink in play. If the puck is directed into the netting, the puck is still in play and both teams have to let the puck touch the ice first before play can resume. It’s like arena football were the net is in play. Just a thought.”
— Mark Monroe
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