One for the Ages: Mike Vernon’s 1988-89 Season


Mike Vernon performed his first sport with the Calgary Flames on Dec. 12, 1982, in opposition to the Detroit Purple Wings. It was an utter catastrophe. The 19-year-old goaltender gave up six targets within the first two durations earlier than he was pulled. After that night time, nobody would have predicted that he would turn into one of many biggest netminders in franchise historical past.

Making it within the NHL

Remembering that have in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Vernon stated that, as he skated to the Flames bench, he requested himself, “How am I ever going to play within the NHL?” When he discovered himself again together with his junior membership within the Western Hockey League and was interested by quitting, he considered what his father advised him: “When you don’t give it your all, and should you don’t give it one other good shot, you might remorse this for the remainder of your life.”

Vernon gave it his all and was ultimately referred to as again as much as the massive membership for the 1985-86 season. His efficiency in 21 regular-season video games earned him the beginning place within the playoffs in opposition to the Winnipeg Jets. At 23 years outdated, he led the Flames to 4 straight victories in opposition to the Jets and on to convincing wins in opposition to the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues.

Mike Vernon, Calgary Flames, Dec. 11, 1993 (Picture by Graig Abel/Getty Photos)

Vernon and the Flames misplaced to the Montreal Canadiens within the Stanley Cup Ultimate, however that sequence and the 1986 Playoffs set the tone for what would arguably turn into not solely the best season in Flames’ historical past however that of the younger goalie’s profession three years later.

Vernon Units Stage for Flames’ 1988-89 Stanley Cup Run

In the course of the 1988-89 season, Vernon and his backup, Rick Wamsley, backstopped the Flames’ smothering defence, which basic supervisor Cliff Fletcher believed was key to success within the NHL at the moment. Vernon registered one of many lowest goals-against averages (GAA) within the league at 2.65. 

Legendary goaltenders at all times appear to have an important staff in entrance of them and Vernon was no exception. The Flames’ roster included a parade of future Hockey Corridor of Famers, together with Lanny McDonald, Al MacInnis, Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk and Joe Mullen. Rounding out the staff had been different Flames greats, like Hakan Loob, Gary Suter, Joel Otto and Theo Fleury. Fletcher declared this staff to be the most effective he had ever assembled.

Flames Nice and Hockey Corridor of Fame Member Al MacInnis

The Flames racked up an astonishing 54-17-9 document to hitch the Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Oilers as the one groups to have gained greater than 50 video games in a season. They had been additionally nearly unbeatable at residence profitable 32 of 40 video games. 

None of this may have been doable with out Vernon placing on an acrobatic present each night time. He logged an unbelievable 37-6-5 document and though his 2.65 GAA doesn’t appear spectacular by at the moment’s requirements, this was throughout a high-scoring period.

The 1989 Playoffs

Heading into the 1989 Playoffs, Calgary had gained the Presidents’ Trophy two seasons in a row. Nevertheless, it was little comfort for followers who had watched their staff lose within the Cup Ultimate three years earlier than, however had been additionally swept by Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers within the Division Ultimate in 1988.

The sensible cash was on the Flames to win the Cup. They had been anticipated to roll over the lowly Vancouver Canucks within the Smythe Division Semifinal. The Canucks completed 43 factors behind Calgary and had extra losses than wins. However the Flames had been complacent, one thing that many Presidents’ Trophy winners turn into in opposition to lesser groups within the playoffs. The Males in Purple appeared as self-satisfied because the Canucks had been lean and hungry after battling for a playoff spot.

Associated: High 3 All-Time Flames Goalies

Calgary gave up the primary sport after a lacklustre efficiency however got here roaring again to take the subsequent two. Vancouver tied the sequence in Recreation 4, then gave up the fifth sport however gained convincingly in Recreation 6 to pressure a seventh sport.

Within the ultimate tilt, the 2 groups fought to a draw by the tip of regulation. The prospect of sudden demise drove them each to the restrict, and the livid tempo and end-to-end motion compelled each goaltenders to make breathtaking saves in time beyond regulation. None had been extra spectacular than Vernon’s glove save on Canucks captain Stan Smyl’s breakaway. That save outlined Vernon and continues to be referred to as “the save that gained the Cup.”

Stan Smyl Vancouver Canucks
Stan Smyl, Vancouver Canucks (Picture by Steve Babineau/NHLI through Getty Photos)

Al MacInnis, who was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as probably the most invaluable participant of the 1989 Playoffs, stated of Vernon’s efficiency: “Whenever you look again on the Vancouver sequence, Mike Vernon stood on his head for us in time beyond regulation. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be right here at the moment.”

With beneath a minute to go in time beyond regulation, Jim Peplinski fired a wide-angle shot on the Vancouver wicket that was redirected off Otto’s skate and into the online, to win the sequence for the Flames. Nevertheless, a lot of the credit score for the win went to Vernon who stopped 42 of 45 pictures.

No different sequence within the playoffs would show to be harder than that first-round sequence in opposition to the Canucks. They breezed to a Stanley Cup victory with out taking part in one other seventh sport, prevailing over the Los Angeles Kings 4-0, the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 and the Canadiens 4-2.

The Ultimate in opposition to the Habs was a goaltending duel as Vernon evened the rating in opposition to his former rival Patrick Roy who gained the Cup in opposition to the Flames three years earlier. The icing on the cake was profitable the Cup within the storied Montreal Discussion board, the primary and solely membership to ever do this.

Vernon performed 22 video games within the playoffs with solely 5 losses, a 2.26 GAA and a .905 save share. In the course of the common season, he led all goaltenders in wins (37), was named to the Second All-Star Group and completed behind Roy for the Vezina Trophy.

The Measure of Mike Vernon

After 9 seasons in Calgary, Vernon performed one other eight seasons with the Detroit Purple Wings, San Jose Sharks and Florida Panthers earlier than returning to finish his profession with the Flames within the 2000-01 season. He retired after the 2001-02 season.

In that point, he gained one other Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy with the Purple Wings in 1997. He and Chris Osgood gained the William M. Jennings award for permitting the fewest targets in opposition to in a season. In his profession, he performed in 5 NHL All-Star Video games.

Virtually all of Vernon’s data had been smashed by fellow Flames nice Miikka Kiprusoff, however, pretty much as good as he was, he by no means gained the Conn Smythe or a Stanley Cup. Vernon appeared in 4 Stanley Cup Finals and gained two.

Associated: One for the Ages: Miikka Kiprusoff’s 2005-06 Season

Vernon wrote one of many biggest chapters in Flames’ historical past, and the group acknowledged that by retiring his quantity in 2007. It hangs alongside these of Lanny McDonald and Jarome Iginla.

Mike Vernon, pick in Minnesota's 2000 expansion draft.
Mike Vernon’s quantity was retired by the Calgary Flames in 2007. (Picture by Wikipedia/ Resolute.)

Now, we’re simply ready for Vernon to be inducted into the Corridor of Fame. Throughout his profession, he was statistically higher than Grant Fuhr and nearly equal to Roy, each of whom are inductees (from “Snubbed: The Corridor of Fame case for Mike Vernon,” The Athletic, 14/05/2020). Sadly, inductions from the goaltending fraternity are as whimsical as they’re few. Of 284 members, solely 38, or about 13%, are netminders. The controversy on Vernon’s inclusion won’t be settled right here, however it’s going to proceed so long as Calgary followers really feel he has not obtained his final due.

LA Kings goaltending nice Kelly Hrudey stated it finest when he made the case for Vernon: “I assumed he was one of the dominant goalies when he performed. Along with his document in huge video games, the 2 Stanley Cups, the Conn Smythe – he’s greater than earned it, particularly when you think about all the opposite names of individuals (chosen for the Corridor). I’m not taking something away from the likes of Ed Balfour and others, however Mike’s in the identical class. He simply is. There’s no denying it.”


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