Roger Allan Crozier (March 16, 1942 – January 11, 1996) was a Canadian professional ice hockey goaltender who played fourteen seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals. During his career, Crozier was named to the NHL First All-Star Team once, was a Calder Memorial Trophy winner, and was the first player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy while playing for the losing team in the Stanley Cup Finals. Also, Crozier is the last goaltender in the NHL to start all of his team's games during the regular season, doing so in 1964–65.
From his junior days with the St. Catharines Teepees of the Junior Ontario Hockey Association until his death, Crozier had recurring pancreatitis that plagued his health. Despite his health issues, Crozier helped his junior team win the Memorial Cup in 1959–60, played in over 500 NHL regular season games and participated in two Stanley Cup Finals (1965–66 and in 1974–75). His health problems eventually led to his retirement in 1976–77 and he joined the Capitals' front office shortly after. Crozier left the Capitals organization in 1983 to work for MBNA bank. In 2000, MBNA unveiled a new trophy called the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award which was awarded annually to the goaltender who records the best save percentage during the regular season in the NHL. The trophy was awarded from 1999–2000 to 2006–07. The Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame posthumously inducted Crozier in 2009.
Crozier was born and raised in the town of Bracebridge, Ontario. His mother was Mildred "Austin" Crozier and his father was Lloyd Crozier. He was one of 14 children. At the age of six, Crozier first started playing the position of goaltender, a position that he would grow to "like". Identified as a "special goaltending talent" by his town's senior hockey team, the Bracebridge Bears, he was recruited to be their starting goaltender at the age of 14. In 1958–59, Crozier helped the Bears become District Champions in the Intermediate C playoffs.
Crozier spent his junior career with the St. Catharines Teepees of the Junior Ontario Hockey Association (OHA-Jr.) from 1959 to 1962. At the time, the Teepees were owned by the Chicago Black Hawks thanks to the National Hockey League (NHL) sponsorship system. The sponsorship system gave the Black Hawks the rights to all of the Teepees' players. In 1959–60, Crozier helped his team win the Memorial Cup. During his tenure with the Teepees, Crozier developed his first ulcer, a problem that would constantly plague him for the rest of his career.
During the 1960–61 season, Crozier spent the majority of his time in the OHA-Jr. Due to his small frame and size, Crozier was not a favourite with either scouts or critics. Despite this, the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League (AHL) recruited Crozier to fill in for their injured starting goaltender, Denis DeJordy that same season. Appearing in three games, Crozier recorded two wins and a 2.31 goals against average (GAA). Crozier returned as the starting goaltender for the Teepees for the 1961–62 season. He also had short stints with the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds of the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL), and the Bisons.
While playing in the minors, Crozier adopted the butterfly style of goaltending, which he would later use during his NHL career. This technique was popularized by Glenn Hall and was improved upon by Crozier. Initially, his minor league coaches tried to convince him to abandon this style, thinking that it would never succeed in the NHL. Crozier also added an element of acrobacy in his game.
Detroit Red Wings (1963–70)
The Black Hawks traded Crozier to the Detroit Red Wings in 1963. The young goaltender, turned full-time professional, spent the season in the minors with the St. Louis Braves in the EPHL and the Buffalo Bisons in the AHL. The majority of his time though was spent in St. Louis as he played 70 games for them. In 1963–64, he played 44 games with the Pittsburgh Hornets, Detroit's AHL affiliate. At the end of the season, Crozier earned numerous accolades, which included the Hap Holmes Memorial Award (fewest goals against), the Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award (top rookie) and a spot on the league's Second All-Star Team. Crozier also made his NHL debut that same season. The Red Wings starting goaltender, Terry Sawchuk, was injured and Crozier was called up as a temporary replacement. Although Crozier played in only 15 games, he impressed management enough that they decided he was going to be their next starting goaltender. This led to Sawchuk being left unprotected by the Red Wings during the intraleague waiver draft in the off-season, and he was subsequently picked up by the Toronto Maple Leafs. This made Crozier the Red Wings' starting goaltender at the age of 22.
During his rookie season, Crozier started all of his team's games, the last goalie to do so in the NHL. He also led the league in both wins and shutouts with 40 and 6 respectively. His 2.42 GAA was the second lowest in the league. At the end of the season, Crozier was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's top rookie and he was also named to the NHL First All-Star Team. During his sophomore season, Crozier missed the team's first couple of games due to pancreatitis. He would return and play the team's remaining 64 games, posting 27 wins and leading the league with seven shutouts. The Red Wings were also able to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Benefiting from Crozier's strong play in the playoffs, the Red Wings advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. After eliminating the Black Hawks in the semi-finals, the Red Wings squared off against the Montreal Canadiens in the 1966 Stanley Cup Finals. The Red Wings won the first two games, but the Canadiens came back and won the next two. During the game four loss, Crozier suffered a leg injury. Although Crozier returned for game five, the injury limited his mobility. In the end, the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in game six. Even though the Red Wings lost the Stanley Cup, Crozier was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is awarded to the most valuable player in the playoffs. He became the first goaltender to win the award and also the first player to win it in a losing effort.
Due to pancreatitis, Crozier played only 58 out of 70 games for the Red Wings in 1966–67. His numbers were down as he won only 22 games and recorded a 3.35 GAA. The Red Wings missed the playoffs. After another bout of pancreatitis at the beginning of the 1967–68 season, Crozier announced his retirement due to stress and depression. His announcement was short-lived as after six weeks, he returned to hockey. Before re-joining the Red Wings, Crozier played five games with the Fort Worth Wings of the Central Professional Hockey League (CPHL) as conditioning. Crozier spent two more seasons on a mediocre Red Wings team before being traded to the newly formed Buffalo Sabres in 1970.
Buffalo Sabres (1970–77) & Washington Capitals (1977)
In the 1970 NHL Expansion Draft, Sabres General Manager Punch Imlach drafted Tom Webster from the Boston Bruins and promptly dealt him to the Red Wings for Crozier. Crozier started the Sabres' first NHL game on October 10, 1970 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He stopped 35 of 36 shots to earn the franchise's first victory, 2–1. On December 6, 1970, Crozier earned the franchise's first shutout in a 1–0 win over the Minnesota North Stars. By late December however, Crozier was deeply exhausted and the majority of the Sabres' goaltending duties were transferred to goalies Joe Daley and Dave Dryden. Crozier finished the season with a 9–20–7 record (win-loss-tie) and a 3.68 GAA. The Sabres also missed the playoffs, finishing fifth in the East Division. Adding to Crozier's continuing health problems, his gallbladder was removed during the off-season.
The 1971–72 season was even worse for the Sabres as they finished with the fewest wins in the league with 16. Crozier posted a 13–34–14 record and a 3.51 GAA. He faced 2,190 shots during the season. This remains as the franchise record for most shots faced by a goalie in a single season. The Sabres improved the next season and they were able to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Playing 49 games, Crozier had his first winning record with the Sabres and he posted a much improved 2.76 GAA. In the first round, the Sabres were matched up against the Canadiens. Crozier played four games and won two, but his team was ultimately dispatched in six games.
Facing continuing problems with pancreatitis and the new additions of ulcers and gallbladder problems, Crozier saw his playing time greatly reduced. In 1974–75, Crozier posted 17 wins and two losses, helping the Sabres rank first in the Adams Division. During the playoffs, Crozier played five games including two in the Stanley Cup Finals. After eliminating the Black Hawks and the Canadiens, the Sabres earned a matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals. Game three of the Finals in Buffalo was known as the "Fog Game". A heat wave in May hit the arena and with no air conditioning inside, the temperature increased. Fog started to develop and soon visibility decreased. Gerry Desjardins was the starting goaltender but after allowing three goals in the first period, he was replaced by Crozier. Crozier allowed one goal during the rest of the game, helping his team win 5–4 in overtime. The series went to a game six with the Sabres trailing the series 3–2. Crozier was selected to start and he denied the Flyers of any scoring after two periods. The third period saw the Flyers score the only goals of the game. For the second time, Crozier was denied a Stanley Cup championship.
In 1975–76, Crozier participated in only 11 games due to his persisting ailments, leaving the starting job to Gerry Desjardins. Due to his continuous illness, the Sabres traded him to the Washington Capitals in exchange for cash on March 3, 1977. He played only three games with the Capitals before retiring after 14 seasons in the NHL.
After retiring, Crozier served in the Capitals' front office. He eventually became interim general manager during the 1981–82 season after Max McNab was relieved of his duties. Crozier was also the head coach of the Capitals for one game during the season. Under his watch, the Capitals picked future hall-of-famer defenceman Scott Stevens during the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. Crozier left the Capitals organization in 1983, and moved to Wilmington, Delaware, to work at MBNA Bank. Working through the ranks, he rose to the level of executive vice president and facilities manager of Worldwide Facilities and Construction.
Roger Crozier died after a battle with cancer on January 11, 1996, at the age of 53. He was survived by his wife Janice, and his two daughters, Katie and Brooke. In 2000, the NHL unveiled the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award, which was given annually to the goaltender who posted the best save percentage in each season from 1999–2000 to 2006–07. The award was co-sponsored by Crozier's last employer, MBNA. In 2009, he was posthumously inducted into the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
|1959–60||St. Catharines Teepees||OHA-Jr.||48||25||19||4||2880||191||1||3.98||—|
|1960–61||St. Catharines Teepees||OHA-Jr.||48||18||24||6||2880||204||0||4.25||—|
|1961–62||St. Catharines Teepees||OHA-Jr.||45||—||—||—||2670||174||1||3.91||—|
|1961–62||Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds||EPHL||3||0||1||2||180||12||0||4.00||—|
|1962–63||St. Louis Braves||EPHL||70||26||35||9||4200||299||1||4.27||—|
|1963–64||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||15||5||6||4||900||51||2||3.40||.900|
|1964–65||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||40||22||7||4168||168||6||2.42||.912|
|1965–66||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||64||27||24||12||3734||173||7||2.78||.903|
|1966–67||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||58||22||29||4||3256||182||4||3.35||.895|
|1967–68||Fort Worth Wings||CPHL||5||3||1||0||265||12||0||2.49||.909|
|1967–68||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||34||9||18||2||1729||95||1||3.30||.890|
|1968–69||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||38||12||16||3||1820||101||0||3.33||.897|
|1969–70||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||34||16||6||9||1877||83||0||2.65||.920|
|1959–60||St. Catharines Teepees||OHA-Jr.||17||—||—||—||1020||52||0||3.06||—|
|1959–60||St. Catharines Teepees||M-Cup||14||8||5||1||850||58||0||4.09||—|
|1960–61||St. Catharines Teepees||OHA-Jr.||6||—||—||—||360||21||0||3.50||—|
|1961–62||St. Catharines Teepees||OHA-Jr.||6||—||—||—||360||19||0||3.17||—|
|1963–64||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||3||0||2||—||126||5||0||2.38||.906|
|1964–65||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||7||3||4||—||420||23||0||3.29||.877|
|1965–66||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||12||6||5||—||668||26||1||2.34||.914|
|1969–70||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||1||0||1||—||34||3||0||5.29||.813|