Eric Vail was a big strapping boy from the Ontario north, born September 16, 1953 in Timmins, Ontario. Vail shared the nickname 'Big Train' with Canada's Athlete of the First Half-Century (1900-1950), Lionel Conacher. Eric spent his teen years playing junior in the Ontario Hockey Association, starting with two seasons with the Niagara Fall Flyers between 1970-1972, then splitting 1972-23 between the Soo Greyhounds and Sudbury Wolves. In that final year of junior, Vail scored 48 goals and 105 points, and impressed NHL scouts enough that in 1973, he was the third choice (twenty-first selection overall) of the Atlanta Flames who had just completed their first season. 'Big Train' split the 1973-74 season between Atlanta and their CHL affiliate in Omaha, but only played 23 games in the NHL. To be eligible for the NHL's Calder Trophy as its rookie of the year, rules stipulate that players can not have played in more than 25 games, so in 1974-75, now a full-time leftwinger for the Flames, Eric Vail was still considered a rookie. That season, he fired 39 goals and finished with 60 points, winning the Calder Trophy -- the first Flame to win a major NHL award. Teammate Willi Plett would win the Calder two years later following the 1976-77 season. Vail continued to play a major offensive role with the struggling Atlanta Flames through the remainder of its existence. In 1976-77, Eric was chosen to play in the All-Star Game, and represented Canada at the World Championship. His most productive season in Atlanta was 1978-79, when he collected 83 points, finishing just outside the top 10 scorers that season. In 1980-81, Vail moved to Calgary when the team relocated there and continued to contribute offensively to the team. In November 1981, Vail was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for Gary McAdam and a draft choice and finished the season, and his NHL career, with that year in Detroit.
Courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame