As far as goaltending goes throughout Flames history, there’s only a few players for the fans/franchise to hang their collective hats on. The good news is those few players were AWESOME and Mike Vernon was one of the best.
The Flames would acquire the 5’9 goaltender in the 3rd round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. Calgary initially never had this pick, but they traded the Miracle On Ice hero Jim Craig to his hometown Boston Bruins in exchange for the 56th pick in the draft. That’s where Vernon was taken and that’s where the Flames franchise fortunes changed.
Vernon would play sparingly in his first three seasons in the NHL, playing in only a combined 21 games from 1982-1986, but he would take over for the struggling Reggie Lemelin during the second half of the 85-86 season. After only 18 games played, Vernon was named the starter for the playoffs and he never looked back. Though Calgary would ultimately lose to Montreal in the Stanley Cup finals in 1986, Vernon had a great post season. He would go 12-9 in the 21 games he would start, stopping 521 of the 581 shots that came his way. His GAA was 2.47 and his Save% was .897, which by today’s standards looks bad, but in the 80’s that was a great playoff performance.
Starting in 1986-87, Vernon would win 30+ games in four out of the next five seasons, including his masterful 37-6-5 record in 88-89. That’s the season where it all came together for the Flames and their small-ish goaltender was a major reason they won the Stanley Cup. During the regular season he would lead the league in wins (37), finish 2nd in GAA (2.66) and his .897 Save% would be 3rd best in the NHL. He would face 1,263 shots during his 52 games played and surrender a mere 130 goals along the way. As if those numbers weren’t great already, Vernon was just warming up.
In the 1989 Stanley Cup Playoffs Mike Vernon was a brick wall for Calgary with his show stopping save on Vancouver’s Stan Smyl being one of his best in the post season. Vernon would end up leading all goaltenders in games played (20), wins (16), saves (497), shutouts (3) and minutes (1381) during the 1989 playoffs. Calgary would find themselves facing the Montreal Canadiens in the finals for the second time and they would be in a 2-1 hole heading into Game 3. From that point on Vernon would only surrender 6 goals over the final three games of the series as Calgary would win Game 6 in Montreal and take home the Flames first and only Stanley Cup Championship.
From the 1989-90 season until 1993-94 Mike Vernon was a workhorse for the Flames between the pipes, playing no fewer than 47 games in any of those seasons with his 64 game season in 1992-93 being the biggest workload he would have for the rest of his career. In his final season with Calgary he would play in 47 games with a record of 26-17-5, a 2.81 goals against and a .889 Save%. He would also play in seven playoff games, going 3-4-0 in his last playoff appearances ever with the Calgary Flames.
After that season Calgary decided that it was time to move on from Vernon and hand the franchise over to Trevor Kidd. In late June 1994 Calgary would deal Mike Vernon to the Detroit Red Wings for Steve Chiasson and it would be a VERY long time before the Flames would see any real, quality goaltending. Quick perspective: Kidd would play 5 seasons and win 178 with Calgary. Vernon would play another six seasons, win 358 more games and another Stanley Cup with Detroit in 1996-97....the last year Trevor Kidd would be a member of the Flames.
After trips to Detroit, San Jose and Florida, Mike Vernon would come home to finish his career with the Flames from 2000-02. These weren’t the best years for the Flames keeper in net, but they weren’t exactly the best years for the Flames either. Calgary and Vernon would fail to make the playoffs in both seasons, with Vernon only playing in 59 games and winning 14 times. At the conclusion of the 2001-02 season Mike Vernon hung up the pads at age 37.
Upon retirement he was the most celebrated goalie in Flames history. He owned a ton of Flames goaltending records until Miikka Kiprusoff came along and broke those during his long and storied career. Vernon ranks number two in franchise history with 527 games played, 262 wins, 29,701 minutes and 12,186 saves. He is still third in career shut outs with 13. Two categories all time he currently holds and may never be broken are playoff wins and games played. In his time with Calgary he owns 43 post season victories in a franchise leading 81 games played. He would play in five All Star Games (he pulled out of a 6th because of injury), all with the Flames. Vernon also was a Vezina nominated goalie four times with the Flames, finishing as high as second place for his efforts during the 1988-89 season.
The Flames would honour Mike Vernon in February of 2007 by retiring his #30, the second (at the time) player in franchise history to receive such treatment. He currently is one of the winningest goalies in NHL history to not be inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame, but was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall Of Fame in 2010.
Other Players Having Worn #30 In Flames History
Dan Bouchard (1973-81), Dwayne Roloson (1997-98), Tyler Moss (1999), Phillipe Sauve (2006)
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Is Mike Vernon the best Flames player to ever wear the #30?
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