Remembering Roger Crozier

Roger Crozier, circa 1972

Tonight the Buffalo Sabres will have a fan appreciation night featuring the return of over 75 Sabre alumni players. Unfortunately the impressive list will not include Roger Crozier, Buffalo’s standout goalie from the 1970’s.

Crozier passed away in 1996 after a stellar career that included a Conn Smythe Trophy (the first player to earn the award on a losing team in the Stanley Cup Finals) with the Detroit Red Wings in 1967 and induction into the Sabres Hall of Fame in 1980.

Phil Ranallo, veteran writer of the “Buffalo Courier Express” newspaper brilliantly recounts Crozier’s  performance during the 1972-73 season in his morning column: “What’s New, Harry?”.

In a style that made him a staple at Western New York breakfast tables for decades, Ranallo describes that coming of age season and Crozier’s appreciation for the Sabres team assembled by General Manager Punch Imlach, and defenseman Tim Horton, who watched Crozier’s back that season.

WHAT’S NEW, HARRY?

Phil Ranallo, February 22,1973

AT LAST, LIFE IS beautiful for Roger Crozier or almost as beautiful as life can get for a fellow who holds down one of the most terrifying and dangerous jobs in the world of fun and games.

For the first two years of the existence of the Buffalo Sabres, Crozier stood smack-dab in the center of the bull’s-eye. The cat-quick goaltender was the Sabres’ first line of defense.

Pucks, pucks, pucks, pucks, an endless barrage of rock-hard pucks was fired at him. Tending goal for the Sabres was like being positioned at the wrong end of things in a shooting gallery.

Roger survived those two frightening years; but ended up with more lumps and bruises than a guy who had picked an argument with a cement mixer – while inside the cement mixer. It was enough to give a fellow a nervous twitch.

THIS SEASON, THOUGH–heaven, at last! Players still swarm in on Crozier with sticks in their hands and knives on their feet. But the Sabres have taken some of the pressure off “No. 1,” the gutsy guy who resides in “No-Man’s Land”, the crease, that oblong area in front of the net.

“Yes, Life is a lot easier on me now,” says Crozier, who in his 13-year career has collected numerous badges of his trade-three broken jaws, one broken nose, one broken cheekbone and facial crocheting that adds up to “maybe 300 stitches.”

“It’s easier because we’re a good hockey team now. We’ve come ‘quite far quite fast because of the great job management has done-Punch Imlach and Joe Crozier.

“At the beginning of the season, when we went through 10, games unbeaten, we didn’t really know how good we were, and wondered whether we were just lucky.

“NOW THAT WE’VE GONE through 60 games, it’s different. We know we’re not a flash-in-the-pan team, We think we’re as good a hockey club as there is in the league-with the exception of Montreal, maybe.”

Then Crozier spoke of the Sabre defense and paid special tribute to Buffalo’s geriatric marvel Tim Horton, the 43·year-old Sabre who is making his mark as hockey’s George Blanda.

“I’d watched Horton play for years, but never realized how good a defenseman he is. I didn’t appreciate him (until I played behind him.

“Nobody takes the puck away from Tim in the corners and nobody can check him in front of the net, He’s unbelievably strong, He’s great at getting the puck out of ‘our end of the rink,”

THE CONVERSATION SWUNG back to goaltending and Crozier confessed that he does not regard it as the greatest job in the world-or in hockey. He mentioned the pressure of being the last line of defense pressure that gnaws at a goalie’s stomach-literally in Crozier’s case, since he is prone to attacks of pancreatitis.

“If a forward or a defenseman is playing badly,” Crozier said, “he gets a chance to go to the bench and get re-organized. But a goalie has to stay out there-and it’s murder on him when he’s having a bad night.”

Crozier said he has one fear-the fear that he will play a bad game, “It’s the same-fear every goalie has when he first hits the ice-because he can’t be sure if he’s going to be good or bad.”

SO WHY DID CROZIER become a goalie? “When I was a kid, goaltending seemed like a pretty good idea,” he explained, “I worked at it hard and the first thing I knew it was the only position I could play with ability.”

“If I had my choice over again, though, if I could go back and start all over again, I’d be a forward or a defenseman-for sure,”

Sabre fans are happy that Roger Crozier, the great goaltender with the marvelous moves, does not have that choice.  Tonight, when the Sabres meet the Vancouver Canucks in Memorial Auditorium, could be a special night in the life of Roger Crozier. Roger could reach a milestone, if he makes 26 saves, he’ll reach the 4,000 save plateau as a Sabre goaltender. That’s more than half-ton of vulcanized rubber he has kept out of the net in less than three years.

Remarkable.

 

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: