Over the last few years, the Los Angeles Kings and their fans have had plenty to be excited about. After watching their team dwell in the NHL’s proverbial basement for what felt like an eternity, long-suffering Kings fans finally got to see their team rebuilt the right way and with that came a plethora of success that resulted in the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2012, a Conference Final appearance in 2013 and the unwavering – and fully justified – of better days ahead.
But for everything the fans of the Los Angeles Kings had to celebrate, there are still a few injustices that lay on the table with the most conspicuous being the absence of one of their own from hockey’s Holiest shrine.
As a player, coach and general manager, Rogatien Rosaire Vachon has been with the Los Angeles Kings organization for more years than he’d probably care to admit. Nevertheless, the netminder spent seven of his 16 seasons in the NHL with the then-obscure Los Angeles Kings and put both the team and himself on the map despite winning three Stanley Cups with the famed Montreal Canadiens before being shipped to sunny California.
While they had a star in forward Marcel Dionne, the Los Angeles Kings weren’t contenders during the 1970’s. While they were a decent team, the purple-and-gold never invoked the fear into their opponents they hoped they would.
Despite this, Rogie Vachon came aboard midway through the 1971-72 season and gave new fans a reason to attend the Forum on a regular basis.
Over the course of his seven years in Los Angeles, Vachon set team records in a number of categories including games played by a goaltender with 389, most wins with 171, most shutouts with 32 as well as a 2.24 goals-against average in 1975 and eight shutouts in 1977. The latter two stood for 35 years until Jonathan Quick surpassed both marks in 2011-12.
In addition to playing in three All-Star Games, Vachon’s great career wasn’t limited to his time with the Kings. In 1976, he helped his native Canada win the inaugural Canada Cup while receiving Team MVP honours in the process. Vachon also won a Vezina Trophy in 1968 as a member of the aforementioned Canadiens.
After Los Angeles, Vachon made stops in Detroit and Boston before retiring in 1982. When he did hang up the skates for good, Vachon recorded 355 career wins, 51 shutouts and a goals-against average of 2.99.
With his 355 career wins, Rogie Vachon currently sits 16th on the all-time list. But while he will most likely get passed by Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo who sits seven wins behind the Kings’ backstop, Vachon should feel proud that he has more wins that four Hall-of-Famers in Gump Worsley, Harry Lumley, Billy Smith and Turk Broda in addition to another deserving Hall candidate, Mike Richter.
With his 51 career shutouts, Vachon sits only three gooseeggs behind two more Hall-of-Fame netminders in Bernie Parent and Eddie Giacomin and is ahead of 13 Hall members in said category including Johnny Bower, Grant Fuhr and Ken Dryden. Okay, in fairness, Dryden only played in half the seasons Vachon did but nevertheless, it is quite the accomplishment that is, in the risk of sounding bias, worthy of hockey’s highest honour.
So, why Rogie Vachon hasn’t been given his due and been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame is a question that not only confuses Kings fans but frustrates them as well – and rightfully so.
While great players deserve ample credit for playing so well in the hockey and media hotbeds that are Toronto, Montreal and New York, players such be given just as much praise for playing in cities where hockey is more-or-less obscure.
For those who discredit Vachon’s success in Los Angeles for the reason that no one cares about hockey in Southern California (that’s such an irritating misconception, by the way), give me the name of one successful goaltender who donned the uniforms of the Oakland Seals, Cleveland Barons and Colorado Rockies. It doesn’t even have to be one from each, just one in total. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
You can’t think of one, can you? That’s most likely because being a great goaltender means just as much in Los Angeles as it does in Montreal – and that is especially true in Vachon’s case who took his Vezina and three Cup wins in Montreal to very high expectations in Los Angeles and what did he do? He excelled.
He may not have led the Kings to the Stanley Cup but in all fairness, the aforementioned Eddie Giacomin never led his New York Rangers to a championship either. Yet despite that, the Rangers were grateful enough for his services that they retired Giacomin’s number – just like the Kings did with Vachon.
While inductees in recent years have played their respective careers in the late-80’s, 90’s and even 2000’s, there should still be a plethora of credit given to those who shined in prior years and helped make the NHL what it is today.
I’m not saying he has to go in this year or next year but soon, Rogie Vachon deserves to have his name and picture on a plaque forever hanging within the walls of the sport’s most luxurious home: the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Considering the logo he wore on the front of his jersey for the majority of his NHL career, it’s only prophetic that Rogatien Rosaire Vachon feel like the royalty he should be treated as within the annals of hockey history.