DETROIT – Chris Osgood was passed over in his third year of eligibility for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.
But his omission from the 2016 induction class doesn’t mean the Red Wings will be completely left out of November’s induction ceremony.
That’s because Rogie Vachon – who played two of his 16 NHL seasons in Detroit – got the call that eluded him for more than three decades.
Vachon, along with former players Eric Lindros and Sergei Makarov, and the family of Pat Quinn, the late coach and general manager, received the good news from hall chairman Lanny McDonald, who called each inductee Monday afternoon.
“I sort of resigned myself that I don’t think it’s gonna happen after all those years,” said Vachon, who posted a 30-57-19 record with the Red Wings from 1978-80. “When Lanny called I was at home with my son Nicholas and I was in total surprise because I didn’t even know that I was going to be on the list. But you know, looking back, it was really worth the wait.”
The new inductees will be enshrined during a ceremony at the hall in Toronto on Nov. 14.
Now 70 years old, Vachon said he wishes his short time in Detroit would have resulted in more team success.
Ted Lindsay, then the Wings’ general manager, acquired Vachon to challenge Jim Rutherford for the starting role prior to the 1978-79 campaign. By signing the veteran goalie – who won three Stanley Cup championships in five seasons with Montreal – the Red Wings were hoping to build on their 1978 playoff season, which at the time snapped an eight-year postseason drought.
“It was fun for the two years I was there,” Vachon said. “Everybody was excited. … I wish I would have played a little better in Detroit but things didn’t work out as well as I thought it would but that’s hockey. I loved the city. The fans are fantastic and they’ve been having a great team ever since.”
Vachon noted that he was also part of franchise history having played in the final season of the iconic Olympia Stadium and the first year at Joe Louis Arena. The upcoming season will mark the team’s last along the riverfront before their planned move to Little Caesars Arena in 2017-18.
Vachon is the 37th goalie to enter the hall, just the 16th enshrined, who played part or all of his NHL career after the NHL’s expansion in1967.
It was a far different era, said the 5-foot-7 Vachon, who isn’t sure he could compete among today’s taller goaltenders.
“It’s really crazy right now,” Vachon said. “If you’re not 6-3, 6-4, you’re not gonna be drafted. It’s just a completely different style that we had in the old days. When I first came up everything was you had to stand up, you don’t go down on your knees and that’s the way most of the goalies played in those days. It changed a little bit when Tony (Esposito) came in and he started the butterfly and then the evolution of goaltending now is completely different. Me being 5-7 I don’t know if I could survive the way they play now.”
In 16 seasons with four different teams Vachon compiled a 355-291-127 record with a 2.99 goals-against average and 51 shutouts. He spent much of his career in Los Angeles, where he still ranks second all-time in Kings history for games played (389), wins (171) and shutouts (32).
Vachon finished his career in Boston, playing his final two seasons (1980-82) with the Bruins, who acquired the veteran from Detroit in a trade for goalie Gilles Gilbert.
Vachon made his NHL debut against the Red Wings during the final season of the six-team league. Just 19 years old at the time, the idea of facing Detroit legend Gordie Howe caused the Quebec native some anxiety.
“When I was called up from Houston by the Montreal Canadiens that night we played at the Forum against Detroit,” Vachon recalled. “I didn’t know I was gonna play that night and (coach) Toe Blake gave me the puck and I was scared.
“My first shot in the National Hockey League was a breakaway from Gordie Howe from the blue line in. I don’t know if I closed my eyes when he shot but I stopped him and it probably kept me in the league for 16 years.”
Asked if he was ever victimized by Howe’s famous elbows, Vachon said, “With my height my face was right were his elbows are, so it was perfect. I caught a few.”