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Ready to Walk The Hall: Steve Vickers honoured to be with other NHL stars

November 18, 2021   ·   0 Comments

Steve Vickers grew up as the oldest of six children in Scarborough, Ontario in the 1950s. 

He wanted to get into sport but with his father being a firefighter, it was quite tough. When Vickers turned nine, his mother put him in hockey. He still hears from time to time why his mother eventually signed him up. 

“She put me into hockey because I didn’t have any friends,” Vickers chuckled. 

“That was the way to meet people and to meet other kids. I played house league for two years. Couldn’t skate for my first year. The only way I could skate in those days was to hit the boards.”

It may have been clandestine to Vickers at the time, but his talents grew rapidly. He always practiced outdoors at a rink down the street from his home. He had an affection for the game and one that would open doors of opportunity. 

He played for the Wexford Lions program all the way up to the age of 16. In his midget hockey year, he was cut unexpectedly by the coach. A year later, Vickers decided to try out for the Markham Waxers, a Jr. B team in the MetJHL. 

“I remember it was the first time I ever got paid to play hockey. I was making $2.50 a game. Frank Bonello signed me in his car at the George Bell Arena in the parking lot. We got all of our equipment. I couldn’t believe it. They’re actually going to give me equipment with skates included,” Vickers recalled. 

“I ended up running away with the scoring championship somehow.” 

Vickers ended the year with 43 goals and 40 assists, turning the heads of many scouts in the nearby area and even abroad. Vickers had been offered scholarships to join Notre Dame, Michigan State, New Hampshire, and even Cornell, where Ken Dryden had played. He opted to stay at home and earned a spot on the roster with the Toronto Marlboros. He recorded 173 regular season points and 30 playoff points in his two years with the team.  

Unlike the NHL Draft today – filled with the glamour, the fancy suits and tens of thousands of people congregating in a chosen arena – it was a simple conference call in the early 1970s.

While cutting grass at Riverdale Park at his summer job with the City of Toronto, Vickers received a call from his mother on his break. 

“She told me I had been drafted by the New York Rangers 10th overall. I said, ‘Thanks, Mom, and I took that information and went back on my tractor and finished the day. It’s a little different today,” he laughed. 

As an added revelation, Vickers shared he was also a little upset. He had wanted to go to the Philadelphia Flyers. He knew he wouldn’t have had a chance to crack the NHL roster and he was right. 

In 1971-72, he spent a year in Omaha playing for the Knights in the CHL. The next season in preparation for the start of the year, the Rangers had Vickers on their active roster. Known for his scoring talents, the Rangers wanted to see how he was ready to contribute. In an exhibition game in Flint, Michigan, Vickers showed another side to his game that was not previously known to the Rangers staff. 

Noel Picard cross-checked Vickers in the back of the neck after Vickers scored a goal past him. Instantly, Vickers turned around and clocked Picard with a right hand to the face, knocking the big man down. 

The Rangers brought Vickers right to Manhattan and to Madison Square Garden after that. Initially, he was placed on the fourth line but with second line forward Gene Carr struggling to score, head coach Emile Francis swapped the two players. Vickers began playing with German-born Canadian forward Walter Tkaczuk and Brandon, Manitoba native Bill Fairbairn. 

Vickers ended up scoring two hat-tricks in two consecutive games on that line. He was the first-ever player to achieve such a feat once stats began to be recorded. He won the Calder Trophy that year scoring 30 goals and adding 23 assists. He spent 10 amazing seasons with the New York Rangers before retiring and was nicknamed “The Sarge” on the ice. 

Following his retirement, his family spent five years in New York before returning to Canada in 1987. The family shuffled around between Oakville and Markham, before deciding to reside in Aurora. It was a great golfing area and new homes were being built at the time in late 80s. He has been in Aurora ever since. 

He became involved in hockey locally for a little while. His two sons and his daughter all played the sport in their youths. Now, he is a starter at Westview Golf Course. 

With a successful nomination and now an inductee into the Aurora Sports Hall of Fame, Vickers said it is quite an honour to be a part of this.

“I thought it was quite an honour. I know some players I played with and against. They’re in there. I had a pretty good year and I thought maybe one day it might happen to me I guess. I know Mike Palmateer, the Murphys, Dave Gardner and Mike Kitchen,” Vickers said. 

Tonight, Thursday, November 18, Vickers will be inducted into the Aurora Sports Hall of Fame at the Royal Venetian along with Lois Thompson, the late Brendan Macken and Colin Graham.

He will happily celebrate with his wife along with his daughter and grandson who are travelling in from Sacramento, CA.

By Robert Belardi



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