(page 8 of 17)
by Shane Tritsch
THEN Left wing, Chicago Blackhawks (1980–87, 1989–90)
NOW Airline pilot
As a teenager in the 1970s, Al Secord spent his summers fighting forest fires for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. When the alarm sounded, he would board a helicopter or bush plane, fly over miles of trackless Canadian wilderness, and land on a lake nearest the fire to battle the blaze. “I thought it was such a cool thing, taking off and landing on water and watching the water bombers come in and dump their loads,” Secord, 53, recalls from his home in Dallas. From then on, he yearned to fly.
Chicago hockey fans may remember Secord as the first Blackhawk since Bobby Hull to score more than 50 goals in a season. Along with offensive acumen, he brought his formidable pugnacity to the ice—he’s the only NHL player ever to score more than 40 goals and log more than 300 penalty minutes in a season. Secord admits he liked to project a “physical presence” when he played. “I tell people it was the Christmas rule,” he says. “It’s better to give than to receive.”
During the off-season in 1985, Secord took flying lessons at DuPage Airport. After earning his pilot’s license, he says, aviation became an addiction. Following his retirement from the NHL in 1990, he found work as a cargo pilot and built up experience. In 1998, American Airlines hired him as a first officer. Today, Secord and his wife, Tracy, also a pilot, fly for American, arranging their schedules so that at least one of them is home with their hockey-playing sons, ages eight and nine. About copiloting DC-9 Super 80s to cities all over North America, Secord says, “I enjoy flying just as much as hockey.” Then he adds, “I enjoyed the hockey paycheck better.”