Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Unlike 'Hawks, Reporters Take Their Shots at Wings' Vernon

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Unlike 'Hawks, Reporters Take Their Shots at Wings' Vernon

Article excerpt

The media gave Detroit goalie Mike Vernon more of a workout Saturday afternoon than the Chicago Blackhawks gave him Thursday night in the first game of the Western Conference finals.

Writers with notebooks, radio guys with tape recorders and TV guys with cameramen in tow came in waves, creating "traffic in front," as they say in hockey parlance.

Vernon didn't stand on his head - more hockey parlance - but he held his ground. Still in uniform after practice, he sat on a stool in front of his locker stall, patiently handling the questions, steering bad ones to the corner, challenging the shooters. In 60 minutes, Vernon faced 41 questions and answered them all - some four or five times.

Transpose the number of questions and you have the number of shots that Vernon faced in 61 minutes against the Blackhawks in Detroit's 2-1 overtime win in Game 1. That's 14 shots, one goal, 41 questions.

Now you know why the media gave him more of workout than the 'Hawks.

"I only got 14 shots on net," Vernon said, with a sense of disbelief to a reporter from the first mob. "Could you imagine the coverage I'd get if I faced 35?"

Actually, that's the way it was supposed to be: Vernon does the pre-1995 Curtis Joseph, faces a million shots, saves the Wings, leads them to the National Hockey League title.

The Red Wings acquired Vernon from Calgary last offseason in what they hoped was the last piece of their Stanley Cup puzzle. He'd won the Cup for the Flames in 1989, and Detroit coach Scotty Bowman, like protege Mike Keenan, wanted a Cup winner in the net. Tim Cheveldae, Bob Essensa and young Chris Osgood would not do.

Vernon was going to be the guy who kept opponents at bay while the Red Wings' ice dancers twirled away with no regard for team defense.

But a funny thing happen. The Red Wings "embraced" - there's that word again - Bowman's new defense-first system, relegating Vernon to a footnote thus far in the playoffs. Vernon, 32, has barely broken a sweat. …

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