MONTREAL - Thirty-eight years after hanging up his skates, former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Rogie Vachon received the ultimate honor: being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Palmarolle, QC native officially entered the pantheon of hockey on Monday night at a ceremony in Toronto. The three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Canadiens was accompanied by his family, and couldn't hold back his tears when he thanked his wife, Nicole, who passed away last year.
Vachon began his remarks by talking about taking up the game as a youngster. When he was 14 years old, there was a senior squad in the area that went up against teams from neighboring towns. There was one problem, though.
"They couldn't find a goaltender crazy enough to play in -30 degrees Celsius weather," confided the 71-year-old. "One day, the head coach, Mr. Larouche, came to our house on the farm to convince my father and my mother to let me play with them. He succeeded. Thank you dad, mom and Coach Larouche. Without that, I wouldn't be here tonight. "
But, the story doesn't stop there…
"The only problem, when you're 14 and you play in a senior league, is that after games the guys are thirsty! They'd stop at a bar for a drink or two. While they were in there, I had to freeze in the car, sometimes for hours," continued Vachon.
Only a few years later, Vachon finally signed his first professional contract with the Canadiens.
That afforded him the opportunity to suit up alongside legends like Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Lemaire and Frank Mahovlich, and also gave him the chance to be coached by Toe Blake and Scotty Bowman.
"I was the happiest goaltender in the world," mentioned Vachon.
After spending six years with the Canadiens, Vachon headed to Los Angeles to pursue his career with the Kings. He then made his way to Detroit and Boston, before returning to LA to work in the organization for years.
Vachon marked a generation with his efforts between the pipes. He participated in three NHL All-Star Games and also helped Canada claim the Canada Cup in 1976.
Over the course of his career between 1966 and 1982, Vachon amassed 355 wins - including 51 shutouts - along with 291 losses and 127 ties.
Forwards Eric Lindros and Sergei Makarov were also inducted on Monday night, as was the late coach and general manager Pat Quinn, who entered the Hall of Fame in the Builder category.