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My First Game: Carol Vadnais


MONTREAL | March 30th, 2009
My First Game: Carol Vadnais
Like most players, Carol Vadnais’ NHL debut came with little warning.

After spending two seasons with the Montreal Junior Canadiens from 1964 to 1966, Vadnais headed to Houston to suit up for the Apollos, a Habs farm team in the CPHL.  At that time, NHL games were becoming more heated as tension rose between the teams. A Canadiens-Blackhawks matchup proved just how important it was to have big, strong and physical players in one’s lineup.

Then-Canadiens General Manager Frank Selke shared the bitter memories he had of the 1962 playoffs in the La Patrie newspaper.

“To see guys like Henri Richard, Beliveau, Rousseau and Backstrom bullied by these gorillas got me worked up. That night, I swore that our guys would never have to go through that again.”

The Habs’ next generation was built with that mindset, as Selke called upon the likes of John Ferguson, Ted Harris, Claude Larose and Terry Harper from their farm team to protect and defend the club’s stars. Vadnais would join that group on February 26, 1967, a date that he won’t soon forget.

While the game itself had little to offer, Vadnais distinctly remembers what happened prior to and after the game.

“I got the call that I would be playing at Chicago Stadium,” recalled the 6-foot-1 defenseman. “When Toe Blake told me I’d be starting the game and I would be playing with Jacques Laperrière, I didn’t believe him at first.

“I went to see Lappy to be sure that I heard correctly. It was a game against the Blackhawks and some big name players.”

Set to make his debut versus the likes of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, he had to pinch himself to ensure that this dream of playing in an NHL game was, in fact, reality.

“It only sunk in a couple of days later, during a practice,” remembered Vadnais, who won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1967-68. “We practiced at Concordia University and as I watched the guys on the ice, I found everything moved so quickly. It was then that I realized that I was kind of in limbo in my first game.”

Despite his memory lapse that night, it wasn’t completely worth forgetting for No. 24, registering two shots on goal and a pair of penalties. While the game ended in a 2-2 score, for Vadnais, it was a small victory, skating in his first of 1,087 NHL games.