MIKE VERNON: Hall of Fame inductee played much bigger than his small frame

Get the latest from Lance Hornby straight to your inbox

Article content

A big 2023 Hockey Hall of Fame class covers a lot of ice.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Three goalies, a general manager and a trio of greats among NHL players, coaches and international women’s hockey will join the puck pantheon this Monday. It brings the Hall’s total residency to 298 players, including ten women, 115 builders and 16 on-ice officials.

Article content

Debate on who else should be nominated by the secretive 18-person selection committee is an endless exercise, but won’t take away from a memorable ceremony in Toronto this weekend for these seven inductees. Here’s one of their stories.


BORN: Feb. 24, 1963, in Calgary, Alta.

HALL CALL: ·With the 1989 champion Flames, Vernon led all goalies with 16 wins and three shutouts and was a second-team all-star … With the Detroit Red Wings, shared the ’95-96 Jennings with Chris Osgood and, in the 1997 playoffs, was named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy … Played in five NHL all-star games … Ranks 16th in NHL career wins … Member of the 1983 Memorial Cup champion Portland Winter Hawks.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

BY THE NUMBERS: Games played 782 (385-273-95) … Had a 2.98 career GAA … In junior, helped the Calgary Wranglers to a record of 33-17-1 and 14 playoff wins in 1980-81 … Holds Flames’ franchise records for most games by a goalie (526), most wins (262), playoff games (81), playoff minutes, and playoff wins (43).

THE STORY: Mike Vernon wished his late mother Lorraine “my first coach” could be at Monday’s ceremony.

“She asked me years ago if I would ever make it into the Hall. This one’s for her.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Vernon’s dad, Martin, ran a local minor hockey association and, with three brothers heavily into the sport, the youngest and smallest was always pressed into playing net. That eventually saw Mike star for the Calgary Wranglers and, in a decade in which Edmonton had dominated the Battle of Alberta (Grant Fuhr, drafted ahead of Vernon in 1981, was the Oilers starter), Vernon had a huge role in that Flames’ Cup in 1989.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“The pressure that comes with that, being in your hometown, it’s difficult. People expect you to win all the time and to be on top of your game.

“As a young man, I went through some trials and tribulations in Calgary, and it wasn’t easy, but it also forced me to try to work harder or try to figure it out, and just to move forward with my career.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

That Cup and being playoff MVP in ’97 with Detroit had kept Vernon’s name in the Hall conversation. With both Henrik Lundqvist and Tom Barrasso well over six feet tall, the 5-foot-9 Vernon joked he might not get a look from teams in today’s NHL.

“I guess I’m a throwback. When I first got drafted, I didn’t believe it. I just thought, ‘oh, I might have a chance at the NHL, get my feet wet and go to training camp.’ I spent about 2½ years in the minors and it was a grind. There was times I wanted to quit and you have to continue to push yourself physically, mentally. It’s amazing when you do give yourself a push, you can demand more from yourself as a person.”

Recommended from Editorial

DID YOU KNOW: Vernon never had a long-term contract, usually just two years and an option, meaning he was almost always playing for a new deal.

QUOTE: “This (selection) might be a long time coming, but it’s still worth it. There was a lot of fight in me and a lot of push to prove that I could play in the league. I’m just happy I got to play as long as I did and put up the numbers that I put up.”

Article content


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.