Former Canadiens defenseman Carol Vadnais died Sunday, August 31, at 68 years old.
Vadnais was not one of the names every Canadiens fan knows by heart, nor was he with the Canadiens for much longer than a handful of years. A good skater and puckhandler, Vadnais only became a defenseman during his last year of junior hockey.
His performance at the Habs’ training camp that summer got him called up with little warning for a Canadiens-Blackhawks matchup as part of a new generation of Canadiens, large enough to stand against players such as Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. Vadnais put up two shots on goal as well as two penalties during his first game with Montréal. Sadly, Vadnais was with the bleu-blanc-rouge only long enough to carve his name on the 1968 Stanley Cup.
Following his first Championships victory, Vadnais moved through clubs in Oakland, Boston, New York and New Jersey, with Montréal making a second bid for his defensive skills in 1972. The Canadiens lost out to the Bruins, and Vadnais earned his second Cup with them.
Vadnais did briefly become famous for something more than his rushing defensive style: during the 1972-1973 season, Vadnais was arrested by Philadelphia Police who mistook him for a suspect in a bank robbery.
Once released from police custody, Vadnais returned to his quiet life of aggressively shutting down forwards and occasionally getting into on-ice brawls such as the one below.
Vadnais retired in 1983 after a final season with the Devils, becoming first a hockey coach, then later a real estate agent in Laval, Quebec, just north of Montréal.
Although he was only able to spend two years on his hometown team, Vadnais, was a Montréaler to the end. In an interview with the Canadiens historical website in September of 2009, he admitted that he still wore his Canadiens Cup ring, more than four decades after first slipping it on.
“I’ve had the [Stanley Cup] ring I won with the Canadiens on my pinky finger for 40 years. I never take it off. I won one with Boston as well, but I don’t wear it – it’s too big. I prefer the one from the 1968 Cup in Montreal.”