Last April, in the midst of his 15th comfortable year in the
front office of the frustratingly comfortable (read: bad) Los
Angeles Kings, Rogie Vachon got the news: He was being canned.
Well, actually, demoted, from chief hockey operations officer to
vice president of special projects. Canned? Rogie Vachon? The
best goaltender in Kings' history? How could this be? Yet in
what was a sweeping shakeup of the L.A. front office, Vachon was
cool. "No big deal," he says. "I've been a King through good and
bad. This is where my heart is. I've faced a lot tougher days
Indeed, Vachon, a 1968 Vezina Trophy winner and thrice a Stanley
Cup winner, has often faced difficult challenges. Like coaching
the Kings three times--all on an interim basis--when they were
one of the worst teams in hockey. Like trading Wayne Gretzky, as
he helped do in 1996 as L.A. president. Like having to stand up
to the likes of Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe, as he did as a 5'7",
165-pound goalie during his 16 NHL seasons. Canned? Big deal.
Ever take a shot by Howe in the face, sans mask? "When you're my
size, you've got to be a stand-up type of person," says Vachon,
52, who with wife Nicole has three children, including Nicholas,
a New York Islanders center. "I played when players were
smaller, but I was still really small. I took my bruises, but I
didn't want to back down. Never."
He didn't. He helped lift the Montreal Canadiens to Stanley Cup
titles in 1968, '69 and '71. Those were among the best teams in
hockey history--strong up front with bone-jarring defense.
"Everybody feared us," he says. "I remember the awe other teams
felt. There was no way we could lose."
After he quit in 1982 (he played five years in Montreal, seven
in L.A. and briefly with the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston
Bruins), Vachon, a Palmarolle, Que., native, didn't dwell on his
355 wins (fifth alltime), his 1976 Canada Cup MVP award and the
retiring of his number 30 by the Kings. Instead he looked
forward. He has since held virtually every position with L.A.,
from goaltender coach to head coach to general manager to
president to operations officer to his current position, in
which, he says, "I mainly work with clients--playing golf,
Last year the Kings celebrated their 30th anniversary with an
alumni game against some Hollywood stars. Vachon started in
goal, his first time in net since retiring. "I practiced, just
to make sure I could still skate," he says. "I didn't want to
embarrass myself." So? "One goal scored," he says. "But I stood
tough." He always has.
COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFER [Rogie Vachon on cover of Sports Illustrated February 10, 1975]