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Eric Vail
Eric vail.jpg
Born September 16, 1953 (1953-09-16) (age 65)
Timmins, Ontario, Canada
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight 220 lb (100 kg; 15 st 10 lb)
Position Left Wing
Shoots Left
Played for Atlanta Flames
Calgary Flames
Detroit Red Wings
National team Flag of Canada.svg Canada
NHL Draft 21st overall, 1973
Atlanta Flames
WHA Draft 29th overall, 1973
Quebec Nordiques
Playing career 1973–1983

Eric 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.

During that same year, Vail played with Team Canada at the World Ice Hockey Championship. At the time of his 1981 trade to Detroit, he was the Flames' franchise leader in goal scoring.

Playing CareerEdit

Eric played three years of junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), spending 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.

Eric 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.

Choosing to play with the Flames, Eric 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.

Since he played fewer than 25 NHL games in his first season, Vail was still considered a rookie in 1974–75.

Eric led all rookies with 39 goals and had 60 points on the campaign. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year, becoming the first player in Flames history to do so.

Injuries reduced Eric'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.

Eric 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. He scored 22, 35 and 28 goals in his following three seasons and set a career high with 83 points in 1978–79.

In 1979–80, Eric passed Tom Lysiak as the Flames' all-time leading goal scorer. His 174 career goals was the most in the Flames' tenure in Atlanta, and he was second to Lysiak with 383 points.

Eric 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.

Though he averaged nearly 30 goals per season, the Flames often felt Eric 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.

Eric 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.

Eric scored 10 goals in 52 games with Detroit. The Red Wings were similarly frustrated with him and 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. Eric scored 20 goals and 49 points for Adirondack and then retired following the season.

Career StatisticsEdit

Regular season and playoffsEdit

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1970–71Niagara Falls FlyersOHA5918304876
1971–72Niagara Falls FlyersOHA60254873122
1972–73Sudbury WolvesOHA63485710580
1973–74Omaha KnightsCHL3710182854
1973–74Atlanta FlamesNHL2329113010002
1974–75Atlanta FlamesNHL7239216046
1975–76Atlanta FlamesNHL601631473420000
1976–77Atlanta FlamesNHL783239712231340
1977–78Atlanta FlamesNHL792236581621120
1978–79Atlanta FlamesNHL803548835320112
1979–80Atlanta FlamesNHL772825532243142
1980–81Calgary FlamesNHL642836642360000
1981–82Calgary FlamesNHL64150
1981–82Oklahoma City StarsCHL30330
1981–82Detroit Red WingsNHL5210142435
1981–82Adirondack Red WingsAHL103470
1982–83Adirondack Red WingsAHL742029493351120
NHL totals 591 216 260 476 281 20 5 6 11 6

International StatisticsEdit

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

Personal LifeEdit

Eric and his ex-wife Sylvia have two children: Scott and Natasha.

He returned to Atlanta following his career, ultimately settling in Lawrenceville, Georgia where he managed a nightclub.

When the NHL returned to Atlanta in 1999, Eric joined the Thrashers organization in a community relations capacity and served as an in-arena analyst for the team's radio broadcasts.

His son Scott is the caddy for PGA Tour golfer Brandt Snedeker.