A two-time Stanley Cup champion and the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy and the William Jennings Trophy, Mike Vernon backstopped his NHL teams to 385 victories through an outstanding 19-season career.
Born February 24, 1963 in Calgary, Alberta, his destiny was established by the age of four. "I had three brothers," he laughed. "When it came time to play hockey, they always said the same thing: 'Get Mikey. He'll play net.'"
In Junior, Vernon was named Goaltender of the Year and Most Valuable Player in both 1981-82 and 1982-83 while playing with his hometown Calgary Wranglers of the Western Hockey League. That same season, Junior rules of the time allowed the league champion to add an extra goaltender for their Memorial Cup run, so he was loaned to the Portland Winterhawks, who subsequently won the Memorial Cup. Vernon was named Top Goaltender of the tournament.
Vernon had already drawn the attention of the NHL when he was chosen by the Calgary Flames in the third round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. During that same dominant Junior season, he made his NHL debut, playing two games with the Flames.
It wasn't until the 1985-86 season that Vernon truly found his spot with the Flames. He played 18 regular season games, and impressed enough that he was named the starting goaltender in the playoffs. Vernon and the Flames proceeded to reach the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens.
By 1986-87, Mike Vernon had solidified his position as Calgary's starting netminder, finishing third in the NHL with 30 wins. His 39 wins in 1987-88 were second-best in the league and helped the Flames win the Presidents' Trophy. Also that season, he made the first of four consecutive appearances in the NHL All-Star Game.
Vernon enjoyed a career season in 1988-89. He led the NHL with 37 wins and was second with a 2.65 goals-against average. He was named to the NHL's Second All-Star Team and helped Calgary post the best record in the league. He finished second in voting for the Vezina Trophy. The post-season saw the Flames successfully move through three series to meet the Canadiens again in the Stanley Cup Final. Calgary defeated Montreal four games to two to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship.
Vernon remained among the NHL leaders in wins through the following seasons, finishing sixth in 1989-90 with 23 and second in 1990-91 with 31. He was voted to the starting lineup for both the 1990 and 1991 All-Star Games. He played in his fifth All-Star Game in 1993 and was named to play his sixth the following season but withdrew because of a knee injury.
After parts of 11 seasons with the Calgary Flames, Vernon was dealt to the Detroit Red Wings during the summer of 1994. That season, the Red Wings won the Presidents' Trophy and proceeded to the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1966.
The momentum continued in 1995-96 as the Red Wings set an NHL record with 62 regular series wins. Vernon and partner Chris Osgood shared the William Jennings Trophy for posting the lowest goals-against average.
Backing Osgood through the 1996-97 season, Vernon was selected to start the playoffs and shone, winning 16 of 20 games as the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, their first in 42 seasons. Vernon was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoffs' most valuable performer.
In August 1997, Detroit traded Vernon to the San Jose Sharks. Paired with Kelly Hrudey, the Sharks reached the playoffs in 1997-98 with Vernon winning 30 games. The next season, San Jose again reached the playoffs.
With a surplus of netminders available to them, the Sharks traded Vernon to the Florida Panthers in December 1999, and he helped lead them to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. But despite his success, when it came time for Florida to protect a goaltender in the 2000 NHL Expansion Draft, the Panthers chose Trevor Kidd, who was ten years younger than Vernon. Vernon was claimed by the Minnesota Wild but immediately traded to the Calgary Flames. He spent two seasons back in his hometown before retiring following the 2001-02 season.
Vernon retired seventh all-time in NHL regular season wins with 385, fourth among goalies in playoff appearances at 138 and fifth in playoff wins with 77. He held virtually every Flames goaltending record at the time of his retirement. The Flames retired Vernon's number 30 in 2007.
Mike Vernon represented Canada at two international tournaments. At the IIHF World Junior Championship in 1983, Team Canada took the bronze medal. At the 1991 IIHF World Championship, the Canadians won the silver medal.
To honour his outstanding career, Mike Vernon was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Player Category in 2023.
|Oklahoma City Stars||CHL||1||0||1||0||3.43|
|Portland Winter Hawks||M-Cup||3||1||2||0||0||0||5.61|
|Portland Winter Hawks||M-Cup||3||3||0||0||0||4.67|
|1984-85||Moncton Golden Flames||AHL||41||10||20||4||0||3.92|
|Moncton Golden Flames||AHL||6||3||1||2||0||3.37|
|Salt Lake Golden Eagles||IHL||10||6||4||0||1||3.40|
|1994-95||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||30||19||6||4||1||2.52||18||12||6||1||2.31|
|1995-96||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||32||21||7||2||3||2.26||4||2||2||0||2.72|
|1996-97||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||33||13||11||8||0||2.43||20||16||4||1||1.76|
|1997-98||San Jose Sharks||NHL||62||30||22||8||5||2.46||6||2||4||1||2.41|
|1998-99||San Jose Sharks||NHL||49||16||22||10||4||2.27||5||2||3||0||2.43|
|1999-00||San Jose Sharks||NHL||15||6||5||1||0||2.49|