Detroit Red Wings: Mike Vernon finally gets the call to the Hall of Fame

Al Bello /Allsport
Al Bello /Allsport /

This past Wednesday was a big day for former Detroit Red Wings goaltender Mike Vernon as it was announced that he would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame hasn’t historically been kind to goaltenders; ask Chris Osgood, but things appear to be changing in 2023, as we will see a run on netminders that will be enshrined in Toronto. Joining Vernon will be goaltenders Tom Barrasso and Henrik Lundqvist. Center Pierre Turgeon and Caroline Oullette will also join the trio of netminders. Head coach Ken Hitchcock and agent Pierre Lacroix will round out the class by entering the Hall of Fame in the builder category.

Mike Vernon joined the Detroit Red Wings near the end of his career as one of Scotty Bowman’s ‘missing pieces.’ Vernon, 60, had been an established veteran goaltender that had won a Stanley Cup early on in his career with his hometown Calgary Flames in 1989.

Former Detroit Red Wings goaltender set to become a Hall of Famer.

Mike Vernon was ‘flabbergasted’ about the call to the Hall of Fame.

"“The game has meant a lot to me throughout my life,” Vernon said during a conference call. “We grew up a hockey family and it was bred in us at an early age. This is quite the honor, and I’m flabbergasted.”“I thought Lanny (McDonald) was calling me for a golf game,” said Vernon, of Hall chairman of the board Lanny McDonald, a former Calgary teammate. “It’s an emotional time for me, and it might be a long time coming. But it’s still worth it. It’s such an honor.”"

Upon joining the Detroit Red Wings, Vernon did not take long to enter ‘legend’ status. During Detroit’s 1997 Stanley Cup run, Bowman elected to roll with the savvy veteran Vernon in goal over the younger Chris Osgood. Osgood appeared in 47 regular season games in 1996-97 to Vernon’s 33. Vernon would go on to post an eye-popping 1.76 goals against average to go with a .927 save percentage during the postseason en route to a Conn Smythe Trophy awarded to the most valuable player of the playoffs.

Although the postseason run solidified things among voters, in Vernon’s case, that ‘legend’ status previously mentioned came prior to the postseason for Red Wings fans. Vernon beat up a much bigger Patrick Roy on March 26, 1997, while Darren McCarty was taking revenge against Claude Lemieux. That day, the Detroit Red Wings sent a clear message to their rivals that they would not be pushed around. Detroit, who had not been able to overtake the Avalanche to that point, established themselves as the leader in the clubhouse on that day. The rest is history. I will never forget Vernon puffing on a cigar during Detroit’s Stanley Cup celebration and during the team photo. That cigar felt like it was as big as Vernon himself at the time.

Following his three seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, after 11 with Calgary, Vernon finished his career by spending two years-plus with the San Jose Sharks, part of a year in Florida, and two years back at home in Calgary to end his career.

Vernon finished his 19-year career posting a 385-273-92 career record, to go with a 2.98 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage.

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Overlooked this year was Chris Osgood, who has better numbers than Vernon across the board, along with Henrik Zetterberg and Curtis Joseph. Joseph, despite being cup-less, and Osgood, a three-time Stanley Cup Champion and two-time Jennings trophy winner, both achieved over 400 victories.