Matt Vernon is forging his own path between the pipes.
The Calgary native hopes to stand out at Wranglers training camp this week, and he looked energized and motivated as he stepped out onto the ice for the first time at Winsport on Sunday.
“It feels great,” expressed Vernon afterwards. “It’s an honour to be playing and trying out in my hometown.
“I really want to showcase my athleticism at camp,” he explained. “I look at what Dustin Wolf has been doing here for the last few years, and I want to play my game similar to him.”
The opportunity to attend Wranglers camp is significant in its own right, but perhaps even more so when considering what the Vernon name represents within the organization. Matt’s father, Mike Vernon, played 13 of his 19 NHL campaigns in Calgary, backstopping the Flames to the Stanley Cup in 1989, and was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2023.
His No. 30 jersey resides in the rafters of the Scotiabank Saddledome.
So, when the 25-year-old Vernon first arrived at Wranglers camp, the team extended a classy gesture that he was not expecting.
“I did kind of have a moment when I walked in and saw that they gave me number 30,” Vernon said with a smile. “I was like, oh, I don’t know about that … It felt weird, but it felt good.”
First call after he found out? To Dad, of course.
“I told him that I was surprised they let me wear it, honestly, but I’m honoured and it feels great,” he said.
The two Vernon’s talk shop from time to time, father to son, and Matt appreciates the practical advice he’s received over the years about playing between the pipes. However, these days, he says he really benefits from his father’s insight.
“He’s really good with the mental side of the game,” Vernon explained. “He helps me approach the game from that angle. It’s something really unique and I’m thankful for that.”
Matt Vernon chats with Wranglers’ goalie coach, Mackenzie Skapski.
Vernon played at Colorado College (NCAA) from 2019-2023, posting a 2.57 GAA and .905 save-percentage last season, and is currently signed with the ECHL’s Jacksonville Icemen for 2023-24.
Flames’ goaltending coach, Jordan Sigalet, has kept tabs on Vernon throughout his college career, and before that, during his time with the Aberdeen Wings (NAHL). While Vernon may not be the biggest goalie out there – listed at 5-foot-11, 175-lb. – he possesses other intangibles that Sigalet appreciates, which is why the Flames goalie guru jumped at the opportunity to add Vernon to the Wranglers training camp roster.
“I think he’s been a guy that’s always been overlooked because of his size,” Sigalet explained. “I’ve always liked his game. He’s a smart, athletic kid and really reads and processes the game well. He made a good impression on his first day on the ice at camp.”
Vernon appeared in two games for the Reading Royals (ECHL) last season. Participating in Wranglers camp this week, ahead of his first full pro season with the Icemen, is expected to be a great opportunity for further growth and development for the budding backstop.
“I think this will be huge for him to have this experience before heading down to Jacksonville for their camp,” said Sigalet. “If you can move quickly and keep up the pace at this level, on top of tracking and having a good hockey sense, it’s huge, and I’ve seen that in Matt’s game.”