Photo illustration by Haley Steel

Southwest Calgary born and raised, Mike Vernon knows his way in and around this city the way he knows his way around a game-, series- and title-saving overtime glove save off Stan Smyl.

Three decades ago, the small, acrobatic goaltender morphed into an authentic hometown hero when he helped deliver a Stanley Cup championship to the Calgary Flames.

For his two separate stints with the Flames, Vernon’s signature No. 30 is one of only three jerseys to have been retired by the organization, hanging in rarified air inside the Scotiabank Saddledome alongside Lanny McDonald’s No. 9 and Jarome Iginla’s No. 12.

“The first house I bought was located in Elbow Park, on Fourth Street – a total renovation, right away,” said the two-time Stanley Cup champion, first with the Flames in 1989 and then with the Detroit Red Wings eight seasons later. “My first house cost $100,000. Now, people’s first houses cost $300,000, $400,000.

“In that particular neighbourhood these days, a lot alone goes for $800,000. For just a piece of dirt. Times sure have changed.”

“I had some good years, and still have some great memories, living in that place. That’s the house I owned in ’89 when we won, so I threw a few Stanley Cup parties there.”

The decision to renovate to personal taste rather than purchase something a bit more move-in ready seemed simple enough to him at the time. After all, Vernon’s dad, Martin, and one of his brothers were involved in a painting company, while another of his three siblings worked as a contractor.

“That is the world I grew up in. Fixing things, getting them the way you wanted them. That’s important,” he said. “So, I gutted the house as it was and we renovated. Seemed the natural thing to do. It was a great spot when I lived there.

“I had some good years, and still have some great memories, living in that place. That’s the house I owned in ’89 when we won, so I threw a few Stanley Cup parties there.”

Following his tenure in Detroit, Vernon would go on to play for the San Jose Sharks and Florida Panthers before winding up back home in Calgary to conclude his 17-season NHL career.

The honeymoon period with his Elbow Park home had ended years earlier, however, thanks to an incident that occurred not too long after those memorable Cup celebration soirées on Fourth Street – hometown notoriety being something of a double-edged sword.

“One day, a year or so later in the summer,” said Vernon, with a trace of amusement, “I’m at the house, minding my own business, and some guy hunts me down on his bike and starts yelling at me, ‘Terry Crisp shouldn’t have been let go (as head coach)! You guys are to blame!’ Meaning us players. Really giving it to me.

“So, I figured, ‘You know what? Maybe I need a little more privacy.’

“When a house came up for sale in Britannia that came with a totally private backyard, I sold the one I had and bought the other one.”