There were no games in the National Hockey League last night, but there is one headline that dominates the ice news today. Roger Crozier, 25-year-old goalkeeper of the Detroit Red Wings stunned his team by announcing his retirement yesterday. We have that story plus the usual quick hits.
Roger Crozier just couldn’t take it any more. After a weekend where he lost back to back games against expansion teams, the slightly-built goalkeeper of the Detroit Red Wings informed general manager Sid Abel yesterday that he is retiring from hockey.
Crozier met with Abel yesterday morning in the general manager’s office. Abel was about to inform the young goalkeeper that he was going to send him to the Detroit farm team at Fort Worth in the Central Professional Hockey League to find his game.
As Abel started to speak, Crozier interrupted him and told him that after consultation with his wife, Arlene he had decided to retire, effective immediately. He said that he had lost all confidence in his ability to play goal in the National Hockey League, and he asked Abel to refrain from trying to talk him into reversing the decision.
Abel knew that Crozier was upset over the weekend losses, but the goalie’s decision to retire left him stunned.
“Roger interrupted me, thanked me, the club and the fans for everything that had been done for him and said he was going to quit.
“He floored me before I could floor him.
“I told him to wait a minute, that he’s young and I was going to bring Baz Bastien in because Baz was a goalie himself and perhaps knew Roger’s problems better.
“But Roger asked me not to try and talk him out of it. He said he knew he was passing up a lot of money, but that he felt as if he’d forgotten everything he knew about playing goal.
“We’ll keep in touch with him and hope he changes his mind.”
Crozier was in the second year of a lucrative four-year contract. He had started slowly this season, but seemed to have turned a corner after a wonderful performance against the Chicago Black Hawks a week ago.
That game was the Red Wings’ fourth consecutive win, and Crozier had allowed only four goals in that stretch. But a 9-3 shellacking at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday evening destroyed any confidence he had gained in the winning streak.
Crozier came to his decision after a sleepless night after Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. He told Abel that he would be happy to play anywhere that Detroit wanted to send him, if only he could play at all. He said that if he continued to play, he felt that his health would fail him.
Abel stressed that Crozier’s decision was not related to the plan to send him to the minors.
Red Wings captain Alex Delvecchio echoed the sentiments of his team mates, expressing shock at the news:
“I was shocked when I’d heard he quit. I don’t think he will stick to it. A couple, three weeks away might bring him to his senses. I hope he doesn’t quit, he’s too valuable to us.”
Former Red Wings goalkeeper Terry Sawchuk, now the biggest name on the Los Angeles Kings, wanted to talk to Crozier when he heard the news. Kings were at the Olympia yesterday morning for a practice before boarding a flight back to Los Angeles.
In full equipment, Sawchuk waddled down the hall to the Red Wings room, asking where Crozier was:
“Where is that little devil, I’ll talk him out of this!”
Sawchuk said that he had previously talked to Crozier about wearing a mask:
“I told him to switch to the mask two years ago but he wouldn’t listen to me. But he’ll be back… he needs a rest…he’s a terrific goalie. But maybe (Bobby) Hull has done this to him.”
Retired star goaltender Jacques Plante also believes that wearing a mask may have helped Crozier deal with the stress of puckstopping:
“I played five seasons without the mask. The slapshot was just coming in. Now, everybody uses it. That makes nearly everybody a potential killer. Before I got the mask, I’d go home thinking a few inches, this way or that way, could have finished me.
“After the mask I could leave the rink and the hockey game behind me. I remember asking Crozier why he didn’t wear a mask. He said he was considering it. You can be sure there were nights where he heard those slap shots buzzing past his ears. Every goalie hears them.”
Bastien, Detroit’s assistant general manager and coach, felt that Roger was unable to relax, blow off steam like other players can. He also thought Crozier was a different goalie than the one who had played for him at American Hockey League Pittsburgh a few years earlier:
“He was tight, even in training camp this year. I’m sure his guts were just churning. You go to bed and you think you’ve got to be out on that firing line again the next day.
“And the practices were as bad for him as the games, and that’s when you’ve got to have fun – in practice, playing for Cokes and quarters and so forth.
“You’ve got to go out for a couple of beers with the boys and relax.”
Detroit hockey writer Jack Berry said that Crozier was unable to “go out for a couple of beers.” Berry writes that because of a stomach ailment, Crozier is on a strict diet and alcoholic beverages are strictly banned.
Red Wings called up Roy Edwards from Fort Worth to replace Crozier. That was the plan before Crozier’s announcement, and it’s absolutely necessary now.
Edwards is an interesting case. He’s a 30-year-old rookie who has no NHL experience. He’s spent most of his professional career in the American Hockey League. A native of Jarvis, Ontario, he played his junior hockey with the St. Catharines and had bounced around the Chicago organization until this past summer.
Edwards was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Expansion Draft, but on the eve of training camp, he was traded to Detroit for veteran netminder Hank Bassen.
In nine games with Fort Worth this season, he had eight wins and a tie, with a goals-against average of 1.33. Regardless of how Crozier had been playing, Edwards certainly deserves a shot with the Wings.
Red Wings also announced that Jimmy Peters Jr. was being called up from Fort Worth. Peters has six goals and seven assists in 9 CPHL games this season. Winger John Brenneman will be going to Fort Worth as his replacement. Brenneman was picked up earlier in a trade with the St. Louis Blues, who drafted him from Toronto in the Expansion Draft.
Other organizational moves by Detroit will see goalie Buddy Blom and left winger Nick Libett move from San Diego Gulls of the Western Hockey League to Fort Worth. Forward Dave Richardson will be reassigned from Fort Worth to San Diego.
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Brian Conacher spoke to Lou Cauz of the Toronto Globe and Mail about the incident that touched off that bench-clearing brawl Sunday evening at the Boston Garden.
Conacher and Orr had come together when the Leaf forward was killing a penalty in the second period. Conacher’s stick came up and clipped Orr on the nose, causing a three-stitch gash.
Conacher was jumped by the Bruins’ John McKenzie and then Orr. While down on the ice and being pummelled, someone jammed a finger into his eye, dislodging a contact lens.
“My eye was burning and I was more concerned with it than taking on the whole Bruin team. I could hardly see and besides I wasn’t angry with anyone. My eyes are important to me, I only have two of them.
“I had the puck and had dumped it off the boards to centre ice. Orr came at me and I brought up my stick. It was a reflex action, something any player in the league would do.
“I don’t know what happened to Orr. You probably saw it better than I did. I went after the puck and picked it up off the boards.
“All I know is that I wasn’t mad at Orr before or after the play. But I can understand Orr being mad. I’m not going to fight a crazy man, bop a guy in the nose who is already hurt and bleeding.
“All I was concerned about was getting out of the way – and my eyes. How do you fight 15 guys? I had no reason to fight.
“Frankly I think (Referee Art) Skov is a (deleted). He made no effort to stop it. What Hodge did was bush, and (Bruins coach) Harry Sinden was bush also.”
NHL president Clarence Campbell says he has reviewed Skov’s report on the game and there will be no further fines or suspensions.
- Toronto coach Punch Imlach has laid down the law to his players as they leave for their west coast road trip. He’s also having the team stay in Oakland rather than San Francisco:
“It’s a $22 cab ride to San Francisco and back, so if any of my guys want to see those topless joints they’re going to have to shell out 22 big ones.”
- Toronto rookie Garry Unger, called up from OHA Junior A London, is accompanying the Leafs on the western swing. He is taking a correspondence course to earn his grade 12 credits and will spend most of the travel time studying.
- Chicago’s Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings are tied for the lead in the NHL scoring race.
- Top goaltending tandem in the NHL so far is Philadelphia Flyers duo of Doug Favell and Bernie Parent.
- Montreal Canadiens have lost captain Jean Beliveau for about three weeks with a badly sprained left knee.
- Louis Blues have named for NHL player Lorne Davis as their Saskatchewan scout. Davis played in the NHL for Montreal, Chicago, Detroit and Boston.
- Chicago Black Hawks have sold defenceman Wally Chevrier to the Baltimore Clippers of the American Hockey League. Chevrier was with the Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League last season.
- CPHL president Jack Adams has fined and suspended two players for a stick-swinging duel last week. John Schella of the Houston Apollos was set down for two games, Ted McCaskill of Memphis got one.
- Steve Atkinson of Niagara Falls Flyers still leads the Ontario Hockey Association scoring race with 23 points. He is two ahead of Toronto’s Terry Caffery and Walter Tkaczuk of the Kitchener Rangers.