TORONTO – To suggest that this was a long time coming would be a significant understatement. However, as the old adage goes, it is better late than never and this weekend, Los Angeles Kings legend Rogie Vachon received his rightful due, officially being enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
When it was announced earlier this year that Vachon would be entering the Hall of Fame, there was some debate. However, in the risk of sounding biased, there is no debate. None.
Having helped win three Stanley Cups for the Montreal Canadiens during his first six NHL seasons, Vachon was then traded to the Los Angeles Kings, joining a franchise which had barely made an identity for itself at that juncture. Vachon, though, helped changed that as he not only helped put the Kings on the NHL map but established himself as one of the game’s premier netminders.
In addition to being named the Kings’ Inspirational Player of the Year in 1973 and runner-up to the Hart Trophy as the league MVP in 1975 and an all-star on three separate occasions, Vachon held or shared eight different Kings’ records, including 171 wins, 32 shutouts and the lowest goals-against average in one season with 2.24. Vachon was also named the Kings’ Most Popular Player in 1977.
On November 16, 1979, while he was no longer playing with the Kings, Vachon would become just the eighth netminder in NHL history to reach the 300-win plateau. In fact, today, his 355 career wins ranks him 17th on the all-time list. Vachon also holds the distinction of being one of the few netminders to have never allowed a goal on a penalty shot.
While he does have fond memories of playing in Los Angeles, though, Vachon admitted that playing in the City of Angels was tough at first.
“It was tough,” Vachon told members of the media on Friday afternoon. “It was tough to play there because, first of all, the weather, no one really cared, no one came to the games. But, things really changed after a while. Marcel Dionne came in and while it was a different era in the 70’s, [the Kings] became very respected. Crowds were coming in and people started to recognize us in the restaurants, which was truly different from playing with the Montreal Canadiens.”
While he did make stops in Detroit and Boston before finishing his playing career, Rogie Vachon would return to Los Angeles following his retirement, spending two seasons as the club’s goaltending coach, nine seasons as their general manager and three tenures as the club’s interim head coach.
In 795 career games, Vachon would finish his career with a 355-291-127 record with a 2.29 goals-against average and 51 shutouts. Vachon would spend 389 of those games with the Kings where his contributions would lead to, on February 14, 1985, becoming the first King on February 14, 1985 to have his number retired and be inducted into the franchise’s Hall of Fame.
As part of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend, it kicked off on Friday when the inductees were presented with commemorative rings to honour their respective inductions. Following the ceremony, Vachon was asked to put into words what his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame meant to him.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” the Kings legend said matter-of-factly before beginning to choke up when he said that his only regret was not having his late wife Nicole, who passed away from cancer in February, with him.
“I wish—I miss her, but I have my kids and my grandkids and we have to move on but this is a great honour.
“But I think about her every day and I know she’s in the right place.”
Vachon was then asked what his wife would have said upon hearing the news of her husband’s induction.
“She would say, ‘It’s about time,’” which was met with a chorus of laughs from the media.
Friday’s ring ceremony was just the beginning, though.
On Sunday, Vachon served as the head coach for Team Salming, who took on Team Lindros for the Hall’s annual Legends Game. But the former Kings netminder was honoured before the game with a Hockey Hall of Fame jacket. Once he put the jacket on, Vachon could not hide his enthusiasm as he pumped his fists in elation. The Hall-of-Fame netminder also received a watch.
This special weekend will conclude on Monday night when each of this year’s inductees will officially enter Hockey’s Holiest shrine.
It was certainly a long wait but after such a successful weekend, there is no denying just how worthwhile this weekend was for Mr. Vachon who, at last, can finally – and rightfully — call himself a Hockey Hall of Famer.