Eric Vail

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Eric Vail
Eric vail atlanta flames 1978.jpg
Vail playing for the Atlanta Flames in 1978
Born (1953-09-16) September 16, 1953 (age 60)
Timmins, ON, CAN
Height 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Weight 200 lb (91 kg; 14 st 4 lb)
Position Forward
Shot Left
Played for Atlanta Flames
Calgary Flames
Detroit Red Wings
National team  Canada
NHL Draft 21st overall, 1973
Atlanta Flames
WHA Draft 29th overall, 1973
Quebec Nordiques
Playing career 1973–1983

Eric "Big Train" Vail (born September 16, 1953) is a Canadian former ice hockey player who played nine seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Atlanta Flames, Calgary Flames and Detroit Red Wings. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1975 as the NHL's rookie of the year and played in the 1977 NHL All-Star Game. Also in 1977, Vail played with Team Canada at the World Ice Hockey Championship. At the time of his 1981 trade to Detroit, Vail was the Flames' franchise leader in goal scoring.

Playing career[edit]

Vail played three years of junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA). He spent two seasons with the Niagara Falls Flyers, scoring 48 points in 59 games in 1970–71 and improving to 73 points in 60 games in 1971–72. He split the 1972–73 OHA season between the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and the Sudbury Wolves, scoring 48 goals and 105 points combined between the two teams.[1] Vail was selected by both the Atlanta Flames, 21st overall at the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft and the Quebec Nordiques, 29th overall at the 1973 WHA Amateur Draft.[2]

Choosing to play with the Flames, Vail made his NHL debut in 1973–74, appearing in 23 games. He scored two goals and nine assists, but spent the majority of the season in the Central Hockey League (CHL) with the Omaha Knights.[1] Since he played fewer than 25 NHL games in his first season, Vail was still considered a rookie in 1974–75.[1] He led all rookies with 39 goals and had 60 points on the campaign. Vail won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year, the first player in Flames history to do so.[3]

Injuries reduced Vail's offensive output in 1975–76 as he scored only 16 goals.[4] Vail rebounded to score 32 goals and 71 points in 1976–77. He played in the 1977 NHL All-Star Game, the only such appearance of his career.[1] He also made his only appearance with the national team, scoring four goals in nine games for the fourth place Canadians at the World Ice Hockey Championship.[5]

Vail scored 22, 35 and 28 goals in his following three seasons and set a career high with 83 points in 1978–79.[1] In 1979–80, Vail passed Tom Lysiak as the Flames' all-time leading goal scorer.[3] His 174 career goals was the most in the Flames' tenure in Atlanta, and he was second to Lysiak with 383 points.[6] Vail transferred with the franchise when it relocated to Canada, becoming the Calgary Flames in 1980–81. He had 28 goals and 64 points in 64 games in his first season in Calgary.[1]

Though he averaged nearly 30 goals per season, the Flames often felt Vail was playing below his capability. He was considered to have one of the best shots in the league, but was often accused of coasting on the ice and carried a reputation for "living large" off the ice.[7] He clashed with head coach Al MacNeil, forcing the team to make a move early in the 1981–82 season. Stating that "Eric Vail and the Calgary Flames were no longer compatible", General Manager Cliff Fletcher sent the team's all-time leading scorer to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Gary McAdam and a draft pick on November 10, 1981.[8] Vail scored 10 goals in 52 games with Detroit.[1]

The Red Wings were similarly frustrated with Vail. They demoted him to the Adirondack Red Wings, their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, for ten games in 1981–82, then left him there for the entire 1982–83 AHL season.[7] Vail scored 20 goals and 49 points for Adirondack then retired following the season.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Vail and his ex-wife Sylvia have two children: Scott and Natasha.[3] He returned to Atlanta following his career, ultimately settling in Lawrenceville, Georgia, where he managed a nightclub.[7] When the NHL returned to Atlanta in 1999, Vail joined the Thrashers organization in a community relations capacity and served as an in-arena analyst for the team's radio broadcasts.[9] Vail's son Scott is the caddy for PGA Tour golfer Brandt Snedeker.

Career statistics[edit]

Regular season and playoffs[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1970–71 Niagara Falls Flyers OHA 59 18 30 48 76
1971–72 Niagara Falls Flyers OHA 60 25 48 73 122
1972–73 Sudbury Wolves OHA 63 48 57 105 80
1973–74 Omaha Knights CHL 37 10 18 28 54
1973–74 Atlanta Flames NHL 23 2 9 11 30 1 0 0 0 2
1974–75 Atlanta Flames NHL 72 39 21 60 46
1975–76 Atlanta Flames NHL 60 16 31 47 34 2 0 0 0 0
1976–77 Atlanta Flames NHL 78 32 39 71 22 3 1 3 4 0
1977–78 Atlanta Flames NHL 79 22 36 58 16 2 1 1 2 0
1978–79 Atlanta Flames NHL 80 35 48 83 53 2 0 1 1 2
1979–80 Atlanta Flames NHL 77 28 25 53 22 4 3 1 4 2
1980–81 Calgary Flames NHL 64 28 36 64 23 6 0 0 0 0
1981–82 Calgary Flames NHL 6 4 1 5 0
1981–82 Oklahoma City Stars CHL 3 0 3 3 0
1981–82 Detroit Red Wings NHL 52 10 14 24 35
1981–82 Adirondack Red Wings AHL 10 3 4 7 0
1982–83 Adirondack Red Wings AHL 74 20 29 49 33 5 1 1 2 0
NHL totals 591 216 260 476 281 20 5 6 11 6

International[edit]

Year Team Event GP G A Pts PIM
1977 Canada WC 9 4 1 5 18
Senior totals 9 4 1 5 18

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Eric Vail profile". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  2. ^ "Eric Vail statistics". hockeydb.com. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  3. ^ a b c Ornest, Leo, ed. (1980). 1980–81 Calgary Flames Fact Book. Calgary Flames Hockey Club. p. 27. 
  4. ^ Simmons, Steve (1980-11-13). "Flames "Big Train"". Flames Magazine (Calgary Flames Hockey Club): 33. 
  5. ^ Podnieks, Andrew, ed. (2011). IIHF Guide & Record Book 2012. International Ice Hockey Federation. p. 525. ISBN 978-0-7710-9598-6. 
  6. ^ Hanlon, Peter; Kelso, Sean, eds. (2007). 2007–08 Calgary Flames Media Guide. Calgary Flames Hockey Club. p. 132. 
  7. ^ a b c Podnieks, Andrew (2003). Players: The ultimate A–Z guide of everyone who has ever played in the NHL. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. p. 877. ISBN 0-385-25999-9. 
  8. ^ "Calgary wheels Vail to the Motor City". Calgary Herald. 1981-11-11. p. C1. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  9. ^ "Atlanta Thrashers Tab Former Atlanta Flames Player Eric Vail". Atlanta Inquirer. 2000-12-30. Retrieved 2012-08-25.  – via Highbeam (subscription required)

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Denis Potvin
Winner of the Calder Trophy
1975
Succeeded by
Bryan Trottier