About me? Not much to tell.
About the name? That’s an interesting story.
Vincent Tremblay was a goalie who spent most of his pro career in the Maple Leafs system. In the 1981-82 season, he played 40 games for the Leafs, compiling a 10-18-8 record with a 4.52 goals against average.
Before the 1983-84 season, he was traded to the Penguins. The Pens assigned him to their AHL affiliate, the Baltimore Skipjacks, where he backed up Roberto Romano.
Meanwhile, in the QMJHL, a young center named Mario Lemieux was tearing up the league, shattering records, and generally making people think that Wayne Gretzky wasn’t going to be the only superstar in the NHL for very long. And he was entering the 1984 NHL Draft. While the contenders raced for the Stanley Cup, the league’s back-markers began racing for the bottom, and the rights to draft Lemieux.
It wasn’t long before the Penguins and Devils, beaten down by intense Patrick Division competition, were on the inside track for that coveted #1 overall draft pick. There was no draft lottery in those days, so whoever finished 21st overall in the league was guaranteed that draft pick.
Enter Vincent Tremblay.
In January 1984, for reasons not readily found by Google, the Penguins called Tremblay up from Baltimore. After four games, he was returned to the Skipjacks. Tremblay started all four of those games, going 0-4-0, with a 6.00 goals against average and a .830 save percentage.
Pretty much what you’d expect from a backup AHL goaltender in the NHL.
I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Tremblay here. Anybody suddenly thrust three levels up the org chart would flounder in their new station. The Peter Principle applies itself quite brutally in professional sports.
But if you knew that tanking the season, as subtly as possible, would net you a 6’4″ stud center from Laval with soft hands and supernatural vision of the ice, wouldn’t you throw an inexperienced goalie into the fire?
We all know how this turns out. The Pens finish last and draft Mario Lemieux. And what has Mario done since?
- Fill the Civic Arena so often, they had to expand to keep up with demand
- Spark a youth hockey movement in Western Pennsylvania that is now producing NHL players like Ryan Malone and R.J. Umberger
- Save the team by raising it from a struggling franchise at rock bottom to back-to-back Stanley Cups
- Save the team a second time by buying them out of bankruptcy after Howard Baldwin tried to out-spend New York and Toronto
- Save the team a third time by negotiating for a new multi-purpose facility to replace the aging Mellon Arena
- Give Sidney Crosby a place to crash during the season
And maybe all of this doesn’t happen if Vincent Tremblay doesn’t get a four-game cup of coffee in January 1984.