Vermette brings Cup-winning ways back ‘home’ to Arizona
When he had his appointed time with the Stanley Cup this summer, Antoine Vermette took Lord Stanley to a children’s hospital near his hometown in Saint-Agapit, Quebec, and later filled it with ice cream for a more private family party.
Now, having returned from the Chicago Blackhawks back to the Arizona Coyotes as a free agent this past summer, he’d love nothing more than a chance to hoist the Cup in his adopted home.
Vermette signed a two-year, $7.5 million free-agent deal to again play for the Coyotes after a four-month hiatus that allowed him to chance and achieve the dream of every hockey player. But with that goal achieved, he didn’t have to think long about where he wanted to continue his career.
“Obviously, it was great experience,” said Vermette, who spent parts of four seasons with the Coyotes before the brief stint in Chicago. “Any experience that ends with winning the Stanley Cup is a great one. It was a special moment for me and I’m going to cherish that for the rest of my life, no doubt about that, but it’s exciting to be back. (Arizona) feels like home, definitely. It’s fun to be back in action with the guys and get going again.”
The trade was great for both teams. Three of the four postseason goals Vermette scored for the Blackhawks were game-winners, including two in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
And the Coyotes, hopelessly out of the playoff race, obtained a young, promising defenseman in Klas Dahlbeck and a first-round draft pick in the deal. Now, Vermette is back in the fold as well.
“It’s a special situation,” Vermette said. “(The idea of coming back was) not something I totally put out of the equation when I left. It was still a possibility as far as I was concerned. And then everything came together and here I am. It’s fun to be back.”
And while a spring in Chicago can be magical, a winter in the Windy City – not so much.
Vermette loves waking up to the views of the Superstition Mountains, playing in the park or in the pool with his children and the family dog and all the perks that come with playing hockey in a Sun Belt city.
The rebuilding Coyotes love having a veteran center who is strong in the faceoff circle, excels in the penalty kill as well as on the power play line and has the dressing room presence that comes with a Stanley Cup ring.
“There’s a confidence that comes with going through a run like that, especially with the kind of team Chicago had, everybody learns from that,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “’Vermy’ is no different. For a young team that wants to learn how to win, that kind of leadership is important.”
Defenseman Connor Murphy said watching Vermette lift the Cup was a special moment for him as well.
“I felt proud because he deserves that,” Murphy said. “Guys like that are such good teammates and such good players, they deserve to be in those moments. To have that accomplishment, it’s crazy to see. (By the finals), guys are so worn down and battling through so much, but yet the level of play is the highest it’s been all year. We were just really happy for him.”
The Coyotes, who have eight players under the age of 25 on their season-opening roster, are expecting Vermette to have an influence on the whole team and while he has an important role as a leader, Vermette has never been big on locker room speeches and that won’t change.
“I think the message I want to bring is your actions speak more than anything you say,” Vermette said. “I’m big on that.”
— Matt Cooper