LOS ANGELES — Over the last handful of years, I have written a few times about former Los Angeles Kings goaltender Rogie Vachon, who became the team’s first superstar after coming to the Kings from the storied Montreal Canadiens, where he won three Stanley Cup Championships.
In a word, Vachon was brilliant. Based on his record alone, he should have been a shoo-in to be inducted into the hallowed halls of the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF).
Despite that, Vachon remains on the outside looking in, primarily because those outside of the Los Angeles area rarely got to see him play—he never got the exposure in Canada or in Eastern Time Zone cities that he needed.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Vachon, or would like to know more, the following stories detail his accomplishments, and include comments from the man himself, based on exclusive interviews.
- Time To Right A Wrong: Hockey Hall of Fame Must Induct Rogie Vachon
- Former LA Kings, Montreal Canadiens Great Rogie Vachon Speaks About Career, Exclusion From Hockey Hall Of Fame
- Los Angeles Kings Must Do More Than Honor Legend Rogie Vachon During A Pre-Game Ceremony
Vachon was first eligible for HHOF induction in 1987. That was 26 years ago, and I first made the case for his induction back in 1998, and I did so again about four years ago (see the first story listed above). I now realize that even though I made the case for his induction, all I did was publish a story about it. Of course, that is what a journalist does, right?
But in this case, the evidence is overwhelming. As such, I believe that I need to take this a step further, so I have decided to use that evidence and take the case to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee.
The following is the text of a letter I have sent to Jim Gregory and to Pat Quinn, Co-Chairs of the Selection Committee, urging them to induct Vachon as an Honored Member in the Players Category this year.
If you find the evidence I presented to be convincing, I urge you to write your own letter (it should be addressed to both Co-Chairs) in support of Vachon’s induction.
We may be his last chance to right this terrible injustice.
NOTE: If you intend to write a letter in support of Vachon, please note that time is short, as submissions from people outside of the HHOF Selection Committee must gain the support of at least one member of the Committee, and be submitted as a written nomination by a member by the April 15, 2013 deadline. Given that it could take some negotiating and arm-twisting among Committee members, there is no time to lose in sending your letters.
February 8, 2013
Co-Chair, Selection Committee
Hockey Hall of Fame
30 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON Canada
Dear Mr. Gregory:
I write to urge the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) Selection Committee to induct former National Hockey League goaltender Rogatien “Rogie” Vachon as an Honored Member in the Players category this year.
Although there are worthy candidates for induction every year, Vachon’s induction should be a priority, if for nothing else, to address the injustice that he was not inducted long ago.
Vachon won the Vezina Trophy in 1968, sharing it with Montreal Canadiens teammate Gump Worsley. He is also a three-time Stanley Cup winner with Montreal, and he led Canada to victory in the 1976 Canada Cup tournament with a 1.39 goals-against average (GAA), a .963 save percentage and two shutouts. Those stellar numbers earned him Best Goalie of the tournament honors, and he was named the Most Valuable Player for Canada.
In 1998, Vachon ranked fifth all-time in career NHL wins with 355. At that time, only Glenn Hall (407), Tony Esposito (423), Jacques Plante (434) and Terry Sawchuk (447) had more—all are honored members. Twelve HHOF goalies had fewer wins than Vachon.
Today, Vachon ranks 16th all-time in career wins, having been passed by several younger goalies including Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Grant Fuhr, and Dominik Hasek. Further, seven other HHOF goalies among the top all-time leaders in career wins rank behind Vachon, and a considerable number of goalies who are honored members are not even on the list, yet Vachon remains on the outside looking in.
To further place Vachon’s achievements in the proper context:
- Vachon ranks 23rd all-time in shutouts. All-time great goalies like Bill Durnan, Johnny Bower, Frank Brimsek, Chuck Gardiner, Worsley and Ken Dryden have all been inducted into the HHOF, yet Vachon has not, despite ranking ahead of them.
- Vachon was the runner-up to Bernie Parent for the Vezina Trophy in 1975, even though many contend that Vachon should have won it with a league-leading .926 save percentage and a 2.24 goals-against average (second in the NHL that season).
If you compare Vachon with the star goalies of the same era, Gerry Cheevers, Dryden, Esposito, Eddie Giacomin, Parent, Billy Smith, and Worsley (each is an honored member), Vachon is:
- Third in games played. Only Esposito and Worsley played in more games.
- Second in wins. Only Esposito won more games.
- Fourth in shutouts. Only Giacomin, Parent and Esposito have more.
- Fifth in winning percentage. Only Giacomin, Esposito and Dryden were better.
After being traded to Los Angeles, Vachon was brilliant, a bright spot on a mostly bad team. He single-handedly won many games, often making the second, third and fourth saves, leading opponents to flail their arms in frustration, or skate away with their jaws agape in amazement.
To be sure, the Kings were often so bad during his tenure that Vachon’s numbers are that much more incredible. He earned a 2.86 GAA with the Kings, and during the 1974-75 season, he earned an even more impressive 2.24 GAA (a Kings record) and had a .926 save percentage—the latter would be the Kings’ all-time record, but the league did not start keeping save percentage records until the 1982-83 season.
Unfortunately, unless you had a ticket to a game at the Forum in Inglewood, California, you probably never got to see him play. Indeed, once he left Montreal after being traded to the Kings, he became, for all intents and purposes, invisible, which certainly plays a huge role in being denied his rightful place in the HHOF.
Back then, only 15 Kings games, all road contests, were televised in the Los Angeles area each season. But when the Kings went on the road, backup goaltender Gary Edwards often got the start. In fact, Edwards, who played with Vachon for the majority of his time with the Kings, said that owner Jack Kent Cooke ordered that Edwards play in many road games, saving Vachon to put on a show for the home crowd, further limiting his exposure in Canada and in the Eastern Time Zone. Indeed, for all intents and purposes, Vachon was quite invisible to the rest of the hockey world during his time with the Kings.
Vachon’s brilliant record alone indicates that he should have been inducted years ago. 26 years have passed since he was first eligible for induction, and through no fault of his own, Vachon has paid the price for the obscurity of playing in Los Angeles by being denied the honor that he so rightly deserves for all those years. To be sure, it is a gross injustice that Rogie Vachon is not already an honored member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. I urge the Selection Committee to rectify that this year.
For those of you who decide to write a letter to the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee, you should receive an acknowledgment letter from them. Don’t expect them to respond with anything of substance; the letter will simply acknowledge receipt of your letter, and tell you what they have done with it.
You can view a copy of the letter I received (with personal information redacted) by clicking on the image above.
LEAD PHOTO: Rogie Vachon. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Kings.
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