Thursday, September 16, 2010
Eric Vail, born on this date in 1953, was drafted 21st overall in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft by the Atlanta Flames following his junior career, which began with the Niagara Falls Flyers of the Ontario Hockey League. After scoring 48, then 73 points in 60 games Vail split time between the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and the Sudbury Wolves for the 1972-73 season and caught the eye of the Flames scouts with a 48 goals and 105 points in 63 games. He also averaged 101 penalty minutes his last two seasons in junior hockey, showing a rugged side as well.
He started the 1973-74 season with the Omaha Knights of the Central Hockey League, and after 37 games was called up to the Flames for 23 games that season.
His first full season in Atlanta saw him establish himself as a valued member of the Flames by placing third in team scoring behind only Tom Lysiak and Curt Bennett while leading the team in goals with 39 on his way to being named the winner of that season's Calder Trophy.
He rebounded from a sophomore slump in 1975-76, in which he scored only 16 goals, with a strong 1976-77 campaign in which he scored 32 goals and 71 points to place second on the team in both categories. His efforts earned him a chance to play in both the NHL All-Star Game and join Team Canada for the World Championships following the NHL season.
He again topped 20 goals two seasons later in 1978-79 with 35 goals and a career best 83 points. Following one more season in Atlanta, the Flames found themselves in financial difficulties due to their annual habit of being quickly eliminated from the playoffs, thanks to five consecutive preliminary losses and two seasons out of the playoffs in eight years, and the cost of competing for players with the World Hockey Association, which dramatically increased player salaries during the 1970's. The club was sold to new ownership who promptly relocated the franchise to Calgary.
After a productive 1980-81 season in Calgary, where Vail averaged a point a game, he began the 1981-82 season with the Flames but was traded after playing in only 6 games to the Detroit Red Wings where he would see action in 52 games. He spent the final season of his career with the Adirondack Red Wings in the American Hockey League, but did not receive a call-up from Detroit and retired at the conclusion of the season.
Vail's final NHL totals were 591 games played with 216 goals and 260 assists for 476 points.
Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 Atlanta Flames Eric Vail jersey. The Flames used the same jersey for each of their eight seasons in Atlanta and it remained intact after the relocation to Calgary, allowing for the obvious change in crest from the flaming A to the flaming C, all the way through the 1994-95 season, a 15 year run for this classic hockey template.
The Calgary Flames pay tribute to their past by using the original Atlanta Flames logo as the A worn to designate their alternate captains.
This jersey was worn without names on the back until 1977-78 when they became mandatory for all NHL jerseys.
Today's video hunt finds us with nothing but brawls to pick from, as the Flames apparently never actually scored any goals if we are to believe youtube.
Note the Philadelphia Flyers reverse nameplates. They had one set made up for TV games and wore them on both the white and orange jerseys, a look they have recently revived.
This next collection of mayhem features the Flames and the Maple Leafs from 1979.