You can all breathe a sigh of relief. There was lots of panic and confusion when we named Pat Riggin the best player to wear the #1 in Flames history. Many of you asked “what about Reggie Lemelin?” Well, Reggie only wore the #1 for a few early years in Atlanta and is best known for wearing the #31 for most of his Flames tenure. So there. Though, believe it or not, Rick Wamsley was in the conversation for a moment. Not a long one, but he was mulled over.
Reggie Lemelin came to the Atlanta Flames after being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 7th round of the 1974 NHL Amatuer Draft. He would spend five years in the minors, never playing for Philadelphia, before the Atlanta Flames would take a chance on him. Before the move to Calgary Lemelin would see little ice time, playing in only 28 games between 1978 and 1980. Lemelin, as would come to be a sort of trademark with him, had shared duties with another goalie who would get the lion share of the starts. Pat Riggin and Don Edwards would each split time with Lemelin in the early days, taking ice time from the Quebec native. However, once he settled in, he was as good as anyone else in the league.
Lemelin started picking up major minutes in 1981-82 where he would play in 34 games for the first time in his career, compiling a record of 10-15-6. Not great you say, but the Flames were finding the more he played, the better he was. His 39 game work load in the following season saw his numbers steadily improve to 16-12-8 and saw his GAA drop from 4.32 to 3.61 on the season.
Starting in 1983-84, Reggie Lemelin would have three straight seasons of 50+ starts, including his best year ever in 1984-85. He would start 56 games, winning 30 off those and only allowing 183 goals in on 1,635 shots and leading the league with 10 ties. Calgary would only play in four playoff games that year and Lemelin would start them all, losing three.
As the Flames were gearing up towards a Stanley Cup Finals run the now 32 year old keeper was really carrying the weight of the Flames goaltending duties. He would start a career high 60 games in 85-86, but his record suffered. He would finish 29-24-4 and his GAA would balloon to 4.09, all while facing a league high 1,785 shots. Unfortunately for #31 he would fall into an eight game losing streak that opened the door for a young goalie named Mike Vernon who would take full advantage of the situation. After playing in almost all of the Flames regular season games the veteran keeper would only play in three post season games, losing one time and never getting a win.
After the loss in the Stanley Cup Finals, Calgary put more of the work on Vernon and Lemelin saw his games played cut in half from the season before. He would start 33 games and have a very good season (16-8-1), but once again it was all Mike Vernon when the playoffs came around. Calgary would have their post season cut short after only six games and Reggie Lemelin only played in two games, losing once and again, not getting a win.
After the 1986-87 season it was clear the Flames had moved on from Reggie Lemelin and he was allowed to walk and sign a contract with the Boston Bruins. There he, once again in a 1A/1B situation, would win the Williams Jennings Trophy with Andy Moog for allowing the fewest goals in a season in 1987-88. He would play six seasons total in Boston, retiring at the end of the 1992-93 season after playing only 18 games in the previous two seasons due to injuries.
Despite always ending up the odd man out or relegated to back up duty, Lemelin was a very good goaltender and had his best years of his career with the Flames. In nine years with the franchise he would play in 323 games, have a W/L record of 144-99-46, and surrender 1,078 goals on 9,303 total shots. He would twice lead the league in ties and face the most shots of any goalie once. He finished in the top three in the Vezina Trophy voting twice while with the Flames and in the top 10 in Save% four times.
As for the Flames record books, he’s 4th all time in games played by a goalie (323), 4th in wins (144), 4th in ties (46), 4th in shots against (9,303) and 4th in saves with 8,225.
Other Players Having Worn #31 In Flames History
Yves Belanger (1978-79), Pat Riggin (1980), Rick Wamsley (1988-92)Jason Muzzatti (1994), Rich Tabaricci (1995-98), Ken Wregget (1999), Grant Fuhr (2000), Curtish Joseph (2008), Curtis McElhinney (2008), Karri Ramo (2014-16), Chad Johnson (2017), Eddie Lack (2018)
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