Roger Crozier

"I like everything about hockey,'' Crozier told Jim Hunt in the 1967 book The Men in the Nets. "The travelling, the friends I've met, the interviews. I like everything but the games.''

The game of hockey was more torture than joy Bracebridge, Ontario native Roger Crozier.

Crozier developed his first ulcer playing junior for the St. Catharines Teepees from 1959-62, winning the Memorial Cup in 1960. He would be hospitalized with pancreatitis more than 30 times during his NHL career. An early infection nearly killed him.

He made his big-league debut in 1963 as a 21-year-old call-up from the AHL Pittsburgh Hornets. Maskless, he had his cheekbone fractured by a Frank Mahovlich slapshot early in his first game, yet toughed it out to finish with a 1-1 tie before being sidelined for two weeks.

Unlike a lot of goaltenders Crozier never had great self esteem., especially after Detroit waived the great Terry Sawchuk. "Detroit have had such great goalies - Sawchuk, Glenn Hall and Harry Lumley. Now they're stuck with a little runt like me,'' he said.

But the runt earned the Calder Trophy as the NHL's best rookie in 1964-65, playing all 70 games, winning 40, earning six shutouts and losing the Vezina as the league's top goaltender to Bower and Sawchuk by two goals in the season's final game, a 4-0 Toronto victory over Detroit.

An acrobat on skates, he took Detroit to the 1966 Stanley Cup final against the Canadiens, a six-game loss, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy and its $1,000 bonus and gold Mustang convertible as the playoffs' most valuable player. He starred in every match, despite an ankle badly sprained in Game 4.

Crozier's frayed nerves were legendary. Having lost three straight games at age 25, he quit hockey and returned home to Bracebridge to work as a carpenter. He had a change of heart four months later, and in June 1970 was traded to the expansion Buffalo Sabres for Tom Webster.

In Buffalo he again led a team to the Stanley Cup finals, this time losing a six-game Stanley Cup final to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974-75. Crozier retired in 1977 after three games, having being dealt to Washington Capitals.

The reluctant Crozier endured a 518-game NHL career that included 206 victories and 30 shutouts.

On January 11, 1996 Roger Crozier died after a long bout with cancer. He was just 53 years old.

Four years later, the NHL and MBNA Bank America, who Crozier worked for in hockey retirement, combined to honor Crozier's memory by awarding the MBNA Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award. The award is presented to the goaltender who finishes the season with the highest save precentage.


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