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Top 100 Goalies: No. 54 — Roger Crozier

Terrible teams, poor health and bad nerves held back the first player to win playoff MVP with a Cup loser.
HHOF Images

HHOF Images

Perhaps it’s more perception than reality, but there seems to be an inordinate number of goalies, particularly from the past, who are tortured souls who die younger than other players. That was the case with Roger Crozier.

If there were any doubt about Crozier’s toughness, that was dispelled in the very first NHL game he played in 1963-64, when he took a Frank Mahovlich slapshot in the face that broke his jaw. He went on to finish the game and win the Calder Trophy as top rookie the following season.

He also played much of his career with pancreatitis and dealt constantly with nervousness, two afflictions that drove him from the game early. In fact, he announced his retirement at25 and missed half a season before returning. Crozier was the first player from a losing team to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, after staking the Detroit Red Wings to a 2-0 series lead over the Montreal Canadiens on the road in the 1966 final before dropping the next four straight. The Habs won Game 6 in overtime on a goal by Henri Richard, with the Wings arguing Richard had pushed the puck in with his glove after colliding with Crozier. And many feel if Crozier hadn’t hurt his knee in the series and been forced to play through the injury, it would’ve been the Wings hoisting the Cup that year.

When Crozier wasn’t playing in pain, he was playing with the specter that his pancreatitis could flare up at any given moment. Despite making the Cup final in 1966, most of the Detroit teams he played with were bad. Then he spent much of the rest of his career playing for an expansion team in Buffalo. He died at 53 of cancer.

Born: March 16, 1942, Bracebridge, Ont.
NHL Career: 1963-77
Teams: Det, Buf, Wsh
Stats: 206-197-70, 3.04 GAA, .903 SP, 30 SO
All-Star: 1 (First-1)
Trophies: 2 (Smythe-1, Calder-1)

DID YOU KNOW?

The award for the NHL goalie with the highest save percentage is named after Crozier, but, ironically, Crozier never would have won it. His best season was 1969-70, when his .920 SP placed fourth.

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