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Hall of Fame

Scotty Bowman's pitch sold Rogie Vachon

New Hockey Hall of Famer's career began after parents agreed to let teen goalie come to Canadiens

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

HHOF profile: Rogie Vachon

GamePlus | Hockey Hall of Fame profile: Rogie Vachon

The former Montreal Canadiens and LA Kings goaltender is one of the 2016's Hall of Fame inductees - we look back at some of his numbers

  • 01:05 •

TORONTO -- Scotty Bowman can still remember his early 1960s scouting visit to the northern Quebec home of teenager Rogatien Vachon, with the goaltender's parents opening the door to their unsolicited caller.

"Mr. and Mrs. Vachon were just about as tall as Rogie," Bowman said with a hearty laugh.

That would be an economical 5-foot-7, a height Vachon played far above in four NHL cities from 1966-67 through 1981-82. Vachon's remarkable journey brings him this weekend to his Hockey Hall of Fame induction, and Bowman, who signed Vachon and brought him from rural Quebec to the metropolis of Montreal, will be on hand for the enshrinement ceremony in Toronto on Monday.

"Rogie was one of the most competitive players I ever saw, and with goalies you don't always see that," Bowman said. "He made up for his lack of size by being so athletic, as fast as a goalie could ever be."

Bowman was a half-dozen or so years into his career with the Canadiens organization in 1963, beating the bushes for talent. He had begun as a junior-league assistant coach in Ottawa in his early 20s, went on to win a Memorial Cup championship with Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League, then was tapped by incoming general manager Sam Pollock to be Montreal's head scout for Eastern Canada, a job he held from 1961-64.

Video: Rogie Vachon selected for Hockey Hall of Fame honors

"I was only 28, traveling all the time; in Toronto for a month, then driving up into northern Ontario and Quebec for the whole month of December," Bowman said. "You were the big scout, but you had bird dogs in every little town."

In the twin Quebec-Ontario mining towns of Rouyn-Noranda, a hockey hotbed that would yield the likes of Dave Keon, Jacques Laperriere, Rejean Houle, Pit Martin and many more, the Canadiens employed Stan Tallon, the father of Florida Panthers executive Dale Tallon.

"District scouts weren't paid much but they enjoyed the connection they had with the big teams," Bowman said. "It was Stan or another scout, a full-time biscuit salesman named Ti-Zyme Renaud -- probably his nickname -- who brought Vachon to my attention."

Bowman went north and saw Vachon, then about 16, turning aside blizzards of pucks in intermediate-league play. It was the goalie's quickness that instantly impressed Bowman, leading to the Vachon family porch in Palmarolle, Quebec, some 430 miles northwest of Montreal.

It took some work, but Bowman convinced Vachon's parents their son could thrive playing for the Junior B Notre-Dame-de-Grace Monarchs, a Montreal district team Bowman would coach.

Vachon would be among the dozen players the Canadiens would bring to Montreal from all over the province every autumn for a look-see; some stuck, others returned home. And it almost always was through Junior B that players would graduate to the major-junior Canadiens and into the minor-pro system.

Vachon would move from Notre-Dame-de-Grace into serious junior hockey in Montreal and in northern Quebec's Thetford Mines before moving up to Quebec of the American Hockey League and Houston of the Central Hockey League. That's where he was when the Canadiens finally summoned him in February 1967 for his NHL debut and the first of his 795 career regular-season games.

Vachon was a member of three Stanley Cup champions in Montreal, shared the 1967-68 Vezina Trophy with Gump Worsley and twice finished in the top three in voting for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL's most valuable player.

Bowman coached Vachon in the NHL for a single game in 1971-72 (his first year behind the bench in Montreal) before the Canadiens, with Ken Dryden on the scene and goalies stockpiled behind him, traded Vachon to the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 4, 1971.

"Rogie gave the Kings terrific goaltending for years," Bowman said. "In the 1970s, no one played a defensive game. There was no trapping, none of that stuff. Rogie got a lot of work in L.A., and he was excellent, a really, really good reflex goalie, very quick with good legs and a good stick.

"What really defined Rogie's career, for every team he played on, was that the players in front of him always reveled at how much of a competitor and teammate he was."

This weekend, Bowman is eager to remind his northern Quebec discovery about the days of Stan Tallon and Ti-Zyme Renaud, as well as about Bowman's sales job with the goalie's mom to let her son go south to the big city, where a career has now brought a small netminder with gigantic talent to the Hall of Fame.

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