Mike Vernon was selected by the Calgary Flames in the third round, 56th overall, in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft.
And it turned out to be a fantastic pick. He made his NHL debut in 1982 and retired 20 years later, also with the Calgary Flames. Five years later, the Flames retired his No. 30, and in 2023, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. And it was well deserved.
Vernon is a winner of over 300 NHL games and a two-time Stanley Cup champion. He won with the Flames in 1989 and again with the Red Wings in 1997.
He also made five All-Star appearances and also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Although he never won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, he had a great career.
There are only 20 goalies in NHL history with more games played than Vernon’s 782, and he played against some of the greatest players in hockey history.
But when he was asked about who he hated playing against the most during a Hall of Fame Fan Forum, he answered with two unexpected names.
He didn’t pick Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, but instead, one of the most infamous agitators in NHL history: Claude Lemieux.
”Because he’d run me all the time,” Vernon said.
But Vernon also named Luc Robitaille as a player he hated playing against.
”He could score goals sitting on his butt for crying out loud, and it drove me nuts.”
When Henrik Lundqvist, also inducted in the Class of 2023, got the same question, he said, ’anybody who knew me really well.’
For example, he named Henrik Zetterberg.
”I remember one game Henrik Zetterberg, a good friend of mine, we had dinner the night before talking about all these different things, and the game the next day at [Madison Square] Garden of course he scores the first goal of the game,” Lundqvist said. “The puck came through so many players, and I look up and I just see his face skating by me smiling like, ‘I got you.’ It annoyed me, a lot.”