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  • 10 Apr
    Goaltender Rogie Vachon cant remember who scored the first NHL goal against him, but one of the newest members of the Hockey Hall of Fame knows exactly whom he stopped to record his first save.I got called up to Montreal with about 19 games to go. My first game at the Montreal Forum was against Detroit, and my first save was on a total breakaway by Gordie Howe from the blue line in, Vachon recalled. To this day, I think that save kept me in the game for 16 years.It was Feb. 18, 1967, when a 21-year-old Vachon was called up from the minors to make his debut against the?Detroit Red Wings.?He made 41 saves and helped the Canadiens to a 3-2 victory. His mother was in the stands and Vachon earned the games first star.That was a pretty good start, Vachon said with a laugh.After a 30-year wait, Vachon, 71, will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 14 in Toronto, joining Eric Lindros,?Sergei Makarov?and longtime coach Pat Quinn.Ive waited such a long time. After a while I started to give up on [making the Hall of Fame], he said. I thought nothing was going to happen after all those years, over 30 years of waiting. Finally, Ive made it. Its just an incredible feeling.Vachon played 16 seasons with the Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings, Red Wings and Boston Bruins. He played 795 regular-season games, compiling a 355-291-127 record, including 51 shutouts. He won the Vezina Trophy in 1968 and was part of three Stanley Cup championships in Montreal. After his successful stint with the Canadiens, Vachon was traded at the start of the 1971-72 season to the Kings to make room for a new stud goaltender named Ken Dryden.?Coming from Montreal [after] winning three Cups in five years and being with the best team ever in the history of the game, and playing with such superstars like Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard ... it was a fantastic time. But it was time for me to move on when Ken Dryden came in, said Vachon, who became a star in L.A. I wanted to be a No. 1 somewhere. It didnt matter where, and I wound up in Los Angeles, which was a great move when I look back on my career.Vachons outstanding career featured plenty of highlights and achievements, but one story in particular became legendary.Before the 1973-74 season, the Kings held training camp in Victoria, British Columbia. Forward Don Kozak, then 20 and in his second season with the team, was a fitness freak, which was a rarity back in those days. He would prepare for training camp by running the horse trails around the hills near his home in Palos Verdes, California. Occasionally, he would also run for miles on the beach. So, when he arrived at camp, no one could outwork him.The Kings invited a trainer from the Canadian Armed Forces to work with the team in Victoria. The players spent each morning going through intense weight training and stretching the week before the team began its on-ice training. On Sunday of that week, the Kings had the day off -- but the players were still at the training facility. Vachon, sitting in a recliner at the facility, was watching football, smoking a cigar and drinking a beer.Lounging comfortably, Vachon called out to Kozak.Hey, Kozy. I heard you trained hard this summer, Vachon said.Yeah, I ran all summer,?Kozak responded.Yeah, me too, Vachon said.Kozak shook his head in disbelief at the notion.Bulls---, Rogie. Look at you, Kozak shot back. You didnt run all summer.With the cigar and beer in his hand, Vachon tried to convince his teammate that he was indeed in great shape. Behind Memorial Arena was a hill, about 200 yards up and back, so Kozak challenged the goaltender to a race. Other players immediately started placing bets. The race was organized and trainers Real Lemieux and Gilles Marotte got involved.Kozak had fallen right into Vachons trap.The race consisted of 10 laps around the course. The rest of the team stood on the hill and watched, cheering for Vachon.I take off like a rabbit, Kozak said. I was at a real fast pace and I could never see Rogie behind me. I come to the last lap and I still dont see Rogie.Forward Randy Rota had a slight resemblance to Vachon. So the trainers dressed the two alike and on the last lap, they sent Rota up behind Kozak, who turned and couldnt believe Vachon was catching up.Holy [expletive]. Where did he come from? Kozak thought.Vachon stood nearby in the woods and after Kozak passed, the goaltender jumped out and soon started to win the race.He starts passing me and I couldnt believe this. Were coming to the finish line and I tackled him, but he dragged me across the finish line and won the race, Kozak remembered with a laugh. We had about 15 grand bet on this and I said to Real, How are we going to pay this? I was exhausted and needed help to the dressing room.Finally, Kozak was told about the ruse and let off the hook.It was really funny, he said.Vachon and Kozak were roommates for many years and remain close friends.[Vachons Hall of Fame election] is special to me because Rogies a great competitor, a great team player. He never, ever put himself first, no matter what. It was always about the team, and he never took the credit, Kozak said. When we won, it was a team effort. We were defensive-minded in those days and Rogie made the big saves and got the team fired up. Even at practice, he was a competitor. If you scored on him during practice, he would get pissed. Im honored to have played with a Hall of Famer. He deserves it.The only major disappointment of Vachons career was not bringing a Stanley Cup to Los Angeles during his playing days (1971-78).He played two seasons in Detroit and another two in Boston before retiring with the Bruins after the 1981-82 season. Vachon had no intention of moving into the management side of the game while he was playing. But after his career ended, his mindset changed and things moved quickly. A season after he retired, the Kings hired Vachon as a goalie consultant. Within a year, he was the GM, replacing George McGuire on Jan, 30, 1984. He also served as an interim coach three times during his 20-year tenure in management.Vachon didnt win a Cup as a general manager, but he arguably did the next best thing: He was the GM who handled the trade that brought Wayne Gretzky to the Kings (the trade was largely brokered by Kings and Edmonton Oilers ownership). And although he was no longer the GM when the Gretzky-led Kings made the Stanley Cup finals in 1993, Vachon was still with the team that had been largely built under his leadership.Vachon has seen the game change plenty since his playing days. Todays game is bigger, faster and stronger. The rules are different, but the sport is thriving.I like the new style, the new game, Vachon said. Years ago, they took away all that hooking and grabbing. That style [kept] superstars [from] playing their own game, and when they finally took out all that grabbing, it opened up the game. Now, its more defensive, but you still have a lot of top players who can play their own game, and it makes it a lot more interesting.During his playing days, Vachon was generously listed at 5-foot-8. Several NHL goaltenders now reach 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-7, almost a foot taller than Vachon and a lot of the other goalies during his era.Goaltending has changed drastically since I was playing, he said. Now, if youre not 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, you have a hard time playing goal. And every goalie now has a similar style, dropping to their knees on every shot, but the equipment made a huge difference. The goalies shoulder pads and everything is so huge and light that theres basically no room [to score].The goalie style is totally different. In my day, we used to try to find the puck and react to the puck. Now, they just get into position in goal and they challenge the players to shoot. Its a totally different concept.Players dont like to talk about their careers until their playing days are over. Vachon has had plenty of time to reflect on his career now that hes being enshrined.Well, it means everything, really, Vachon said. There are only 271 players in the Hall of Fame, so its really a big honor when you think of the thousands of players who have played over the last 100 years. Its really special.For the record: Vachon gave up his first goal in his debut against the same man he first stopped, Gordie Howe.Vachons next stop, however, will be the Hall of Fame. Cheap Youth NFL Jerseys . 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The Nashville Predators were glad their captain was still on their side. Weber had a goal and two assists, and Roman Josi scored the shootout winner to lift the Predators to a 4-3 win over the Flyers on Thursday night. It has been a long 21 months since former WWE superstar CM Punk announced his intention to fight in the UFC.After setting aside nearly a full year to perfect his craft, injuries twice forced Punk to delay his first bout inside the Octagon. Saturday marks go time for the 37-year-old, whose real name is Phil Brooks, in his debut against welterweight Mickey Gall (2-0) at UFC 203 in Cleveland.From the very first day his signing with the UFC was announced, Punk has had a great attitude regarding what he has gotten himself into, saying, I felt like it was now or never. I have a limited window most fighters dont have. Im either here to win or get my ass kicked.Along the way, as reports began to trickle out from Roufusport in Milwaukee, where he trains, the prevailing theory was that the latter of the two options Punk presented was most likely to happen. Las Vegas oddsmakers agreed, installing Punk as a heavy underdog.Whether it proves to be sideshow or the beginning of a second career, Punk has retained the respect of many for taking such an unnecessary risk, leaving behind millions of dollars by walking away from his pro wrestling prime. That respect has trickled down to his peers in the world of sports entertainment.Paul Heyman, who served as Punks on-screen manager in WWE from 2012 until Punk abruptly walked away from the company in January 2014, has no doubt regarding the intentions of the five-time WWE world champion.Any conversation that I had with CM Punk dating back, even when he was still in WWE and was dreaming of getting involved in mixed martial arts, is that he was doing a switchover of careers from becoming a sports entertainer to becoming a full-time, career-oriented mixed martial artist, Heyman told ESPN.com in June.With Punk currently being sued by a WWE doctor for defamation, it has been difficult for current superstars to speak publicly regarding Punks UFC debut. But?Seth Rollins, during an August visit to ESPN headquarters in Bristol,?Connecticut, admitted that hes excited to watch the fight.Rollins also cited Punk as a very influential wrestler who set the stage for WWEs current new era of superstars.Hes a guy who led the charge for a long time, Rollins said. Hes one of the first indie guys in a long, long time to really shake [up] the main roster in WWE and he paved the way for?Daniel Bryan, for myself,?Dean Ambrose,?Cesaro,?and those guys.Say what you will about his attitude and his relationship with the company right now, but I wish him the best and I hope that he is successful -- win, lose or draw.Ryback, who parted ways with WWE on his own terms in August, took offense in recent years to comments made by Punk that he was reckless to work with in the ring, which escalated a war of words between them. But Ryback, whose real name is Ryan Reeves, said it has no influence on him wanting to see Punk do well in the UFC.From a basic human being standpoint, he is showing courage doing something the majority of people on this planet will never do and that is step in a cage and fight in front of millions of people, Reeves told ESPN.com. I respect he wants to test himself and has the courage to do so. For that reason alone, while I dont condone him saying the things he said about me, I want to him do well. Any man can beat another man on any given night, so I just hope he achieves what he is looking for in this and I will leave it at that.Many pro wrestlers have tried their hand at MMA ovver the years -- and vice versa, to varying degrees of success -- creating a natural crossover between the worlds of scripted fighting and the real thing.dddddddddddd No one has been able to make the transition as prominently, and with as much success, as former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.The comparisons between Lesnar and Punk were inevitable, despite the fact that Punk enters MMA as a complete novice, one month shy of his 38th birthday. Lesnar, on the other hand, had a legitimate background as an NCAA Division I champion in wrestling, not to mention that hes simply a freak athlete with natural size and speed advantages over most opponents.Punk told ESPN Radio in June that Lesnar was excited for him in the beginning, offering his help.He said, Bug me any time you want, Ill answer all the stupid questions you got, Punk said. And then he gave me some advice. Brocks a nice guy when he wants to be.But Lesnar, during a visit to Bristol in June to promote his one-off return at UFC 200, downplayed the idea that his ability to float between MMA and WWE was opening doors for others, Punk included.There will never be another Brock Lesnar, he said. You can make all the correlations you want to the people you just stated but none of them have ever main-evented and sold pay-per-views and put asses in the seats like Brock Lesnar. There is nobody.When it comes to making the adjustment between the two platforms and quickly finding a comfort level, current UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett believes Punk will be just fine. A former pro wrestler himself in Japan, Barnett currently joins WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross as the voice of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV.I think he has been in the environment long enough and he understands the difference between shooting and working, as we say in the business, Barnett told ESPN.com in January. The biggest thing for Phil is dont hold back, dont doubt, dont hesitate. Go out there and live your dreams. Youre in the UFC, youre here to be an MMA fighter. You put the time in, just go forward. Dont even bother looking behind you and just see what happens.Despite the UFC heavyweight championship being contested in the main event at UFC 203, as Stipe Miocic makes his first defense against Alistair Overeem, a great deal of the buzz entering Saturday has centered around Punk.The question lingers -- how much does it matter whether Punk is competitive, let alone victorious, in terms of justifying his placement on the card as more than just a curiosity to add PPV buys? WWE Hall of Famer Scott Hall believes the UFC has promoted Punks appearance correctly by allowing his smirky personality to show while not misrepresenting what he brings to the table.I think people tune in to watch Brock win and I think they are going to tune in to watch Punk lose, Hall told ESPN.com. I think they employed that strategy in their marketing so if he does anything but get creamed I think he comes out OK. They are not building him up as a big hype or anything.They are taking the strategy like lets wait and see. They even showed him training in the cage and all the others guys were kind of standing around yelling at him because it is kind of like, Lets see what you got.After a long buildup to get here, Punk will finally get that chance, for better or for worse, on Saturday. ' ' '