For a few hours, Rogie Vachon was the greatest goal scorer among goaltenders in NHL history. On February 15, 1977, in a game against the New York Islanders, the Kings were called for a delayed penalty in the first period.
The Islanders pulled goaltender Glenn "Chico" Resch for the extra attacker, but when New York center Bryan Trottier passed it back to the blue line deep in the Kings' zone, he missed his mark and the puck slid down the length of the ice into the empty net.
When the PA announcer exclaimed it was Vachon's goal, the crowd at the Forum erupted. It was the first time in NHL history that a goaltender had been credited with a goal.
Bob Miller, the Kings' legendary play-by-play announcer, was calling that game and still remembers the excitement in the building. "The crowd was buzzing," he said.
But something about it didn't seem right to Miller. After the period, while he was reviewing the audio tape of his play-by-play, as he often did, he realized that, after he mentioned Vachon made the save, he then said that the Kings' Vic Venasky had played the puck.
"I remember thinking, 'I don't think Rogie should be credited with that goal.' I don't have it in the play-by-play that I mentioned his name touching the puck," Miller said. "I didn't know if I should say anything because I didn't want to have a goal taken away from Rogie."
After listening to it over and over, Miller consulted with his broadcast partner, Dan Avey, and finally decided to bring it to the official scorer's attention.
"I mentioned it to the scorer and said there's nowhere on the tape that Vachon touched the puck or made a save before the Islanders get it. It came to Vic Venasky and then he lost the puck there, so it shouldn't have been Rogie's goal," Miller said.
Following the game, which Los Angeles won 3-0, the goal was corrected and properly credited to Venasky.
Years later, in his book, Tales from the Los Angeles Kings Locker Room, Miller recounted the outcome of the story and simply wrote "Sorry Rogie!"
He's sure he brought it up to Vachon directly and believes the Hall of Fame goaltender has no hard feelings. "I don't remember exactly what I said to him, but I don't think he got upset about it because he knew he didn't touch the puck before the Islanders put it in the net," Miller said.
For Vachon, getting the victory and shutout, especially against a very strong Islanders team is what really mattered. "I had a goal for a few hours anyway," he laughed.
While Vachon's brush with history was brief, it was all the same to him. "Personally I really didn't care because it's not the way I wanted to get my first goal," he said. "I wanted to shoot the puck over to the net and have it go in. Just being awarded a goal without shooting it was no big deal."
Over the course of his career, Vachon had a few bona fide opportunities to score a goal, but the puck just didn't go his way. "Many times the other team would pull the goalie and sometimes I would make a save and the puck would be ahead of me, so I would shoot it down," he said. "A few times I came very close. I know I hit the post once, but I never made one."
Although Vachon didn't make history that night in Inglewood, less than two years later, Billy Smith, who was backing up Resch that game, was credited with a goal in a game against the Colorado Rockies after rookie defenseman Rob Ramage misplayed the puck.
Following Smith's milestone, it took another decade before an NHL goaltender finally scored by shooting the puck into his opponent's net. On December 9, 1987, Philadelphia's Ron Hextall pulled it off late in a game against the Bruins. Since then, six different NHL netminders have accomplished the feat, including Pekka Rinne most recently on January 9, 2020.
Thinking ahead, Vachon believes we will only see more goals by goaltenders because of the changes to equipment and increase of skill in net.
"The difference in my day versus now is that goalie sticks now have a nice big curve and they're very light," he said. "Just about every goalie now can really fire the puck."
"In my day, I had no curved stick. It was just a straight blade, so it was a little more difficult to lift the puck over somebody at the blue line and shoot it down," Vachon added. "I think now and in the future there will be a lot more goals by goalies because they can always shoot the puck over players that are in the way."
Hopefully Rogie is right. I think we can all agree that the world could use more goalie goals.