Wherever Mike Vernon went, success usually followed. Best known as a Stanley Cup winner with both Calgary and Detroit, Vernon’s veteran presence also helped San Jose and Florida make the playoffs during the latter stages of his career.
The Calgary native played his major junior with the local WHL Wranglers before he began his NHL career with the Flames. Though not blessed with size at 5-foot-9, Vernon possessed a wicked glove hand and great quickness that meant he was never truly out on a play. His first major run came as a 23-year-old rookie in 1986, when the Flames went to the Cup final before losing to Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens. Three years later, Vernon and the Flames got their revenge in a rematch, toppling Roy’s Habs in 1989 to earn Calgary its first and only Cup.
Vernon put himself in a different franchise’s history books in 1997 when coach Scotty Bowman tabbed the 34-year-old to lead the Red Wings in the playoffs over 24-year-old Chris Osgood. Vernon’s stellar play resulted in Detroit’s first championship in 42 years, netting him the Conn Smythe Trophy. That somewhat made up for losing in the final to New Jersey two years prior with Detroit.
And despite being seen as a nice guy off the ice, Vernon also waded into the Detroit-Colorado rivalry of the late 1990s when he fought Roy, who was then with the Avalanche, during the infamous Darren McCarty-Claude Lemieux line brawl.
While Vernon isn’t in the Hall of Fame, his career was impressive. A lack of international opportunities hurts his resume, but four trips to the Cup final (with two victories) is notable, especially since it occurred with two franchises over a decade. Roy, Grant Fuhr and Martin Brodeur may have overshadowed him, but Vernon got the job done again and again at a high level.
Born: Feb. 24, 1963, Calgary, Alta.
NHL Career: 1982-2002
Teams: Cgy, Det, SJ, Fla
Stats: 385-274-92, 3.00 GAA, .890 SP, 27 SO
All-Star: 1 (Second-1)
Trophies: 1 (Smythe-1)
Stanley Cups: 2
DID YOU KNOW?
Vernon’s son Matthew is finding his way in the hockey world – as a goalie, naturally. The younger Vernon is playing for the NAHL’s Aberdeen Wings and helped the team set a franchise record for wins (39) in 2017-18.