Vernon McDonald HHOF

TORONTO -- When it comes to finding out if you're one of lucky ones to be going into the Hockey Hall of Fame, it’s all about The Voice.

Lanny McDonald’s voice.

For a potential Hall of Fame inductee, seeing a call come in from the Toronto 416 area code in late June doesn’t necessarily hold special significance. In the case of center Pierre Turgeon, a member of the Hall’s Class of 2023, he was in Las Vegas with his family for his sister-in-law’s 50th birthday and ignored four such calls.

Finally he answered when a fifth call came from that same number.

“I didn’t know what it was about,” Turgeon said. “But the second you hear that voice, Lanny’s distinctive voice, it’d like “Yes, I’m in!””

Those sentiments were echoed almost word for word by fellow inductee Ken Hitchcock. who ranks fourth on the NHL’s all-time coaching wins listn with 849.

“I was jamming the (golf) clubs into the trunk after yet another butchered practice session when I got the call,” Hitchcock said. “When you hear Lanny’s voice, I mean, there’s no other like it. When you hear it, you just know.”

What makes this year unique is McDonald, the chairman of the Hall, had the opportunity to make that coveted call to one of his former teammates, in this case former Calgary Flames and Detroit Red Wings goalie Mike Vernon. It’s something he’s had the privilege of doing only a handful of times.

It was a special moment for each of them, given their history together.

In 1989, they were teammates on the Flames team that won the first and only Stanley Cup championship in their history. In Game 6 of the Final against the Montreal Canadiens, Calgary clinched the title with a 4-2 victory in which Vernon made 20 saves and McDonald, who would retire weeks later, scored his final NHL goal.

So, when Vernon picked up the phone, few people on the planet could recognize the voice on the other end of the line more than he could.

“It happens very rarely that I get to call someone who I played with with such great news,” said McDonald, a member of the Hall’s Class of 1992. “The thing is, I don’t have a say in who gets in. I don’t vote. And these guys need to get 14 of 18 votes.

“To be able to make that call to Mike Vernon, well, if he doesn’t play as well as he did against the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, we don’t even get out of the first round. He made some amazing saves in Game 7, many in overtime, before we scored to advance.

“And then, in the Final, for him to outplay Patrick Roy of Montreal, it was special.”

Just like it was for Vernon to hear McDonald’s familiar pipes on the phone five months ago.

“I have a great relationship with Lanny,” Vernon said. “When you played with a guy who scores in a win that helps clinch you the Stanley Cup, it’s amazing. And to see him hoist the Cup for the first and only time, it’s special.

“Lanny’s one of the best captains I’ve ever played for. He always stood up for the players. He always knew what to say at the rough times or the tough times.”

For Vernon, that was never more evident this past summer when McDonald, with his trademark voice, told him he was a Hall of Famer.

“It doesn't get any better than that,” Vernon said.