View Full Version : Honour overdue for ex-Habs goalie Vachon

10-28-2009, 04:52 PM
Former Canadiens goaltender Rogatien Vachon was the first person to have his number retired by the L.A. Kings - but still isn't in the Hall of Fame

By DAVE STUBBS, The Gazette
October 26, 2009

MONTREAL Newspaper stories in the autumn of 1967 were suggesting that Canadiens goaltender Rogatien Vachon might soon be returned to the Houston Apollos, the minor-league farm club from which he had been summoned the previous winter.

So a 10-year-old Vachon fan took pen to paper and addressed the first fan letter of his life to his first hockey hero, telling "Mr. Vachon" in as many words that he should simply ignore any demotion and stay put.

The CH-crested envelope was in my family's mailbox less than a week later, a classic black-and-white postcard of Vachon in the half-splits, the puck about to hit his outstretched blocker.

"Don't worry, I'll never let them send me down," his reassuring, paragraphs-long reply read in part.

Rogie Vachon grinned when I told him this story yesterday. He enjoyed a modest show-and-tell as we spoke at his hotel - his face in a plastic marble that I'd dug out of the sugar of a 1969 Post cereal box, after many Vachon-less boxes had been consumed; one of his earliest Topps bubble gum cards; a full-size replica of the first mask he wore, acquired a year ago for my office wall.

Full disclosure, I told him: I became a Vachon fan when he made his first NHL save on Feb. 18, 1967, a Gordie Howe breakaway. I remained one when I disowned the Canadiens for trading him to the Los Angeles Kings in a 1-for-4 deal in November 1971. I stuck by him no matter how bizarre he looked in the jerseys of Detroit and Boston as his career wound down in the early 1980s.

And the autographed postcard didn't hurt.

Vachon, 64, was in Montreal for a brief visit to a sports collectibles show at Centre Pierre Charbonneau. He'd flown in from L.A. on Saturday evening, dined with old friends, had Sunday brunch with a few family members, signed autographs yesterday afternoon and was on a dinnertime flight home.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion had never before done a signing in the city where his NHL career began. He does precious few, in fact, maybe one every few seasons, and only good timing and direct flights confirmed this one.

It was the first time in several years that he'd visited Montreal, using the airport mostly for connections to visit family in the Rouyn-Noranda area.
Vachon is surprised by the boom in sports collectibles, as are most of his generation. He has kept very little from his playing days beyond a few jerseys, his final gloves and skates and a purple, crown-painted mask he wore with the Kings. His last game-worn leather pads disintegrated in garage storage, decomposing in the California heat.

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