Almost 50 years before Ken Dryden and almost 100 years before Matt Murray, there was John Ross Roach. Few goalies in NHL history had better starts to their careers than Roach did.
At 21, Roach caught fire with the Toronto St. Pats and led them to the 1922 Stanley Cup title, becoming the first rookie goalie in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup and the first to post a shutout in the final.
After beating the first-place Ottawa Senators 5-4 in the first game of the playoffs, Roach helped the St. Pats to a 0-0 tie in Game 2, which gave them the NHL title. The St. Pats then took on the Vancouver Millionaires and beat them in five games in the Cup final, with Roach allowing just one goal in the final two games. “The newspapers raved about him that year,” said hockey historian Eric Zweig. “He’s talked about like a superstar, but he never really becomes one.”
Despite playing 13 more years in the NHL for the Leafs, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings, Roach never duplicated his rookie heroics. “He’s a guy who has a case for the Hall of Fame,” said hockey historian Bob Duff. “What hurts his chances is he didn’t win enough Cups. He played on some good teams after that first one but never got all the way.”
Roach was dealt to the Rangers in 1928 for Lorne Chabot, another player with Hall credentials but isn’t inducted, and $20,000. Roach was one of the more acrobatic and entertaining goalies of his era but took a backseat to contemporaries such as Clint Benedict and Georges Vezina.
Born: June 23, 1900, Port Perry, Ont.
NHL Career: 1921-35
Teams: Tor, NYR, Det
Stats: 219-204-68, 2.46 GAA, 58 SO
All-Star: 1 (First-1)
Stanley Cups: 1
DID YOU KNOW?
Roach was the first of six goalies in NHL history – seven if you include Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks – to serve as captain for his team. Roach wore the ‘C’ for the St. Pats in 1924-25.