Born: March 16, 1942
Died: January 11, 1996
Birthplace: Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada
Height: 5'8" Weight: 160 lbs.
Seasons with Buffalo: 1970-71 to 1975-76
Uniform Number: 1
|1971-72: Wayne Larkin Memorial Trophy (Sabres Most Valuable Player)
1971-72: Star of Stars Trophy (Most three stars selections during season)
|* Save Percentage does not include 1973-74 season|
|In their first year in the National Hockey League, Roger Crozier, perhaps more than any other player, gave the Buffalo Sabres instant credibility. An aging veteran with a laundry list of injuries and ailments, Crozier was often out of the lineup, unable to play during his tenure in Buffalo. When he was healthy, Crozier was a force to be reconed with. An acrobatic goalie who challenged shooters with reckless abandon, Crozier's experience and veteran poise gave the Sabres a chance to win any time he was between the pipes. That's saying a lot when you consider the lackluster Sabres defense in the first couple of years of the team's existence. Crozier often faced between 40 and 50 shots against a game during the team's first two years in the NHL. Still, despite all the illness and adversity he faced while with the Sabres, the young team was competitive from the start, thanks in large part to the contributions of Roger Crozier.
Crozier's career began as it does for many NHL players with a stint in Canadian Major Junior hockey. Crozier was a star goaltender for the St. Catherines Teepees of the Ontario Hockey Association from 1959 to 1962. In 1960, Crozier led his team to the Memorial Cup Championship.
|Crozier's professional rights belonged to the Chicago Black Hawks through the NHL's sponsorship system, which proceeded the Amateur Draft as the way in which teams would acquire young players. A professional team would gain the rights to a junior player by sponsoring that player's junior club. The Black Hawks acted as sponsor for the St. Catherines Teepees during the early 1960's, thereby gaining the rights to Crozier and his teammates.
Crozier began his professional career in 1961 as a member of the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League, the Black Hawks' top minor league affiliate. Crozier, still the starting goaltender for St. Catherines, was called in to replace the injured Dennis DeJordy in the Bisons lineup. Crozier had taken over for DeJordy in St. Catherines when DeJordy turned pro in 1959. Crozier played three games with the Bisons during the 1960-61 season, recording two wins and a no decision.
|Crozier turned pro full-time in 1962, spending the 1962-63 season with the St. Louis Braves of the EPHL and the Bisons. In 1963, the Black Hawks traded Crozier to the Detroit Red Wings.
Crozier made his NHL debut during the 1963-64 season, playing 15 games as a backup to the legendary Red Wings goaltender Terry Sawchuk. The Red Wings organization was so impressed with Crozier's play that during the off-season, Sawchuk was traded and Crozier was given the starting nod.
As a rookie, Crozier started all 70 of Detroit's games during the 1964-65 season. His backup, Carl Wetzel, saw only 33 minutes of action during the entire season. Crozier was the last goaltender in NHL history to play in all of his team's games. Crozier turned in an impressive rookie campaign, leading the league with 40 wins and 6
|Crozier was returned to the Teepees for the 1961-62 season. He spent the majority of the season there. He was called up for one game with the Bisons, and spent three games with the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds of the Eastern Professional Hockey League during the season.|
|shutouts. His 2.42 goals against average (GAA) was the second lowest in the league. At the end of the season, Crozier was honored with the Calder Trophy as the NHL's Outstanding Rookie.|
|In 1965-66, Crozier led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup Finals. Detroit won the first two games of the series, benefiting from a solid performance by Crozier. When a Montreal player slammed into Crozier during Game 3, Crozier was knocked out with a leg injury, and the Red Wings lost the game. Crozier returned for Game 4, and while playing on the injured leg, held the mighty Canadiens to just 2 goals. Despite his fine play, the Red Wings lost again. Montreal would take Game 5 as well. In Game 6, still suffering from the leg injury, Crozier held the Canadiens to a tie in regulation time. Montreal would go on to win the game and the series in overtime. Despite losing the Cup, at the end of the series Crozier's heroic effort earned his the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff M.V.P. Crozier was the first goaltender, as well as the first player from a non-championship team to win the award. To date, only three other players have won the Conn Smythe Trophy without also winning the Stanley Cup.|
|In 1967, Crozier would have his first prolonged bout with pancreatitis, the ailment that would hamper him throughout the remainder of his career. After missing a stretch at the beginning of the 1967-68 season, Crozier announced his retirement. After six weeks, Crozier decided he had recovered enough to return to action, and he rejoined the Red Wings after a brief conditioning stint in the AHL. Crozier would miss portions of the next two seasons with pancreatitis and related illnesses.
At the 1970 Expansion Draft, Sabres General Manager Punch Imlach went about the business of building an NHL team from scratch. Imlach knew that solid goaltending would be the cornerstone around which a competitive team must be built. To that end, Imlach picked up goaltender Joe Daley, whom the Pittsburgh Penguins were trying to sneak through the Waiver Draft. Daley was an experienced NHL goalie, but not one who Imlach thought could carry the load throughout the season. Imlach was on the lookout for a deal which would bring him another veteran to share the goaltending duties with Daley.
As the teams gathered for the Expansion Draft on June 10, 1970,
|Imlach was approached by Detroit Red Wings GM Sid Abel. Abel told Imlach that he was going to trade Roger Crozier to Boston for right wing Tom Webster, who happened to be on Boston's list of players available in the Expansion Draft. If Imlach picked Webster in the draft, Abel would trade Crozier to him, cutting the Bruins out of the deal. Later, Boston GM Milt Schmidt pulled Imlach aside, and not knowing about the conversation between Imalch and Abel, and asked him to take forward Garnet "Ace" Bailey with the first pick in the draft, because he had planned on trading Webster to Detroit for Crozier. Schmidt walked back to Boston's table thinking he had a deal with Imlach, while Imlach preferred to deal with Detroit. Imlach came to the podium to make his first pick in the Expansion Draft and picked Webster, much to the displeasure of Schmidt. Webster was quickly shipped off to the Red Wings, and Roger Crozier was a Sabre.
With Crozier, Daley and Dave Dryden, who was also acquired in the spring of 1970, Imlach had a solid goaltending corps around which to build his team.
|Crozier was the starting goaltender for the Sabres' first ever NHL game on October 10, 1970 in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. Crozier turned aside 35 of Pittsburgh's 36 shots as the Sabres earned their first NHL win by a score of 2-1. The 35 save effort was actually an easy night for Crozier during that first season. Four nights later, Crozier would face 53 shots on net as the Sabres were shut out by the powerful Montreal Canadiens 3-0 in their home opener. 21 of those shots came in the second period alone. On November 18, 1970, Crozier made 40 saves on 42 shots as the Sabres invaded the Maple Leaf Gardens, beating Imlach's former club by a score of 7-2.
Despite the constant pressure of facing so many shots a night, Crozier played extremely well, keeping the Sabres close in most of their games. He registered the first shut out in Sabres history on December 6, 1970 as the Sabres blanked the Minnesota North Stars 1-0 at the Aud in Buffalo.
By late December, 1970, the pressure of being the Sabres' number one goaltender took it's toll, and Crozier was out of the lineup, suffering from sheer exhaustion. Daley and Dryden carried the load for much of the rest of the season, with Crozier playing only sparingly. He finished the season with a 3.69 GAA in 44 games played, winning 9, losing 20 with 7 ties.
Crozier fared a little better health-wise during the 1971-72 season. He competed in 63 of Buffalo's 78 games, posting a 3.51 GAA and 2 shutouts. Though the Sabres finished the year with the worst win-loss record in the
|Crozier is "knighted" by Sabres owner Seymour H. Knox III for his fine play during the 1971-72 season.
Photo Credit: Robert Shaver
|league, Crozier's play couldn't be faulted for it. Crozier faced 2,190 shots against during the 1971-72 season, which is still the team's record for shots faced by a goaltender in a single season. At the end of the season, his teammates voted Crozier their Most Valuable Player, and he was presented with the Wayne Larkin Memorial Trophy. He also won the team's "Star of Stars" Trophy, for the most three stars selections during the season.
1971-72 would be Crozier's last full season as a starting goaltender in the NHL. Illnesses and injuries limited Crozier's playing time for the rest of his career. In addition to the pancreatitis he had been suffering from since the late 60's, ulcers and gall bladder problems conspired to keep Crozier in almost constant pain. Often, Sabres coach Joe Crozier (no relation to Roger) wouldn't know until game time who his starting goaltender would be. As the goaltenders would take pre-game warmup, Joe Crozier would wait and watch to see if Roger would nod to him or not. If he did, that meant he was feeling well enough to play. If not, backup Dave Dryden would be pressed into action.
|Crozier nodded 46 times during the 1972-73 season. With an improved Sabres defense playing in front of him, Crozier turned in a 23-13-7 record with a 2.76 GAA and 3 shutouts. Dryden benefitted from the extra help on defense as well, and the Sabres had their best season since coming into the league, making the Playoffs for the first time in club history. In the Playoffs, Crozier played in 4 of the team's 6 games in a first round loss to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Montreal Canadiens. Crozier won two of those games, including one in Montreal.
The 1973-74 season was a disappointing one for the Sabres all around. Injuries took some of the team's most talented players from the lineup. Crozier's ailments limited him to only 12 games, and Dryden took over as the team's starter. In February, veteran defenseman Tim Horton, one of the biggest contributors for the Sabres' improved defensive play, was killed in a car accident on his way home from a game in Toronto, sending the young team into a tailspin. The season ended with the Sabres missing the Playoffs by 10 points.
Under new coach Floyd Smith, who was the Sabres' Captain during their first year in the league, the 1974-75 Sabres were one of the best
|teams in the NHL. They won the Adams Division for the first time in history, finishing the season with 49 wins, 16 losses and 15 ties, still the best record in franchise history. Crozier contributed 17 wins to the effort in 23 games played. He finished the season with a 2.62 GAA and three shutouts.
In the Playoffs, the Sabres tore through the Chicago Black Hawks and Montreal Canadiens en route to the Prince of Wales Conference Championship and the team's first ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Crozier played in 3 games for the Sabres during the 1975 Playoffs, including two games in the Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers. One of those games that Crozier appeared in was Game 3, the infamous "fog game". A rare May heat wave hit Buffalo, causing the temperatures inside the Aud to jump into the 90's. With no air conditioning inside the building, an eerie fog rose from the ice to enshroud the players. The thick fog made it hard for the goalies to see, and stop, the puck, and the teams skated to a 4-4 tie in regulation. In overtime, Crozier held the Flyers off, and Sabres right winger Rene Robert put one past Philadelphia goalie Bernie Parent to seal it for the home team. Crozier was also in net for Game 6 of the series. He held the Flyers scoreless through two periods, but gave up 2 third period goals as the Flyers clinched the Stanley Cup in Buffalo.
|Crozier would play just 11 times during the 1975-76 season, leaving most of the goaltending duties to Gerry Desjardins, who took over as starter late in the 1974-75 season. Crozier had a 8-2-0 record in his starts, with a 2.61 GAA, his best goals against average as a Sabre.
On March 3, 1977, Crozier was traded to the Washington Capitals for cash. Crozier played in three games with the Capitals during the 1976-77 season, allowing just two goals against. He retired following the season, and took a front office job with the Capitals.
On February 2, 1980, Roger Crozier's contributions to the Buffalo Sabres organization were honored when he was a part of the first class inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame.
Crozier served as interim General Manager of the Capitals from November, 1981 to August, 1982. During that time, Crozier served as head coach of the Capitals for one game during the 1981-82 season.
In 1983, Crozier left the Capitals organization and took a job with MBNA Bank America as Executive Vice President and Facilities Manager. During his time with MBNA, Corzier oversaw the renovation of the comapny's headquerters in Newark, Delaware. Three new wings were added to the facility, which Crozier named the Red Wing, the Sabre Wing and the Capital Wing, in honor of the three teams that Crozier played for in his career.
|Photo Credit: Robert Shaver|
|Crozier also owned and operated the Roger Crozier Enterprises Hockey School in Barrie, Ontario from 1983 to 1993.
On January 11, 1996 Roger Crozier died after a long bout with cancer. He was 53 years old.
In 2000, the NHL and MBNA Bank America combined to honor Crozier's memory by awarding the first annual MBNA Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award. The award is presented to the goaltender who finishes the season with the highest save precentage. Dallas Stars goaltender Ed Belfour won the award in 2000, and Belfour's backup, rookie Marty Turco won the award in 2001.
|1964-65: Calder Trophy (Outstanding Rookie)
1964-65: NHL First Team All-Star
1965-66: Conn Smythe Trophy (Stanley Cup Playoff Most Valuable Player)
|First shift on the ice for the Buffalo Sabres: (along with Hap Myers, Billy Inglis, Ron Anderson, Paul
Terbenche and Tracy Pratt) October 10, 1970 at Pittsburgh Penguins
First goaltender win in team history: October 10, 1970, 2-1 at Pittsburgh Penguins
First goaltender loss in team history: October 15, 1970, 3-0 vs. Montreal Canadiens
First shutout in team history: December 6, 1970, 1-0 vs. Minnesota North Stars
First player inducted into Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame: February 10, 1980