John Ross Roach

Standing just 5'5" high and tipping the scales at about 130lbs, John Ross Roach was one of the smallest goalies ever to guard a NHL cage. He also had two great nicknames. He was dubbed "Little Napoleon," a reference to both his size and temperament. He was also more enamouredly called "The Port Perry Woodpecker," referring to his hometown in Ontario. He may also have been known as "The House Cleaner."

Roach was an outstanding senior player with the Toronto Granites of the OHA Senior league, never more so than in 1920-21 when he lead the league in wins and goals against average. When the NHL's Toronto St. Patricks started searching for a replacement for their regular goaler "Jumping Jakie" Forbes, boss Charlie Querrie did not have to look far and signed Roach.

Roach was a nervous rookie, but his team did well enough to make the playoffs in 1921-22 and the St. Patricks pulled off a shocking upset of the powerful defending Stanley Cup champion Ottawa Senators in the two game, total goal NHL playoff. They then went on to beat Vancouver to win the Stanley Cup in Roach's very first year. It would be the only Stanley Cup champion Roach would ever play on, though he would achieve all-star status later on.

After 1921-22 he was the regular goaler for the St.Pats but with mixed success. In 1924-25 he led the NHL in wins as the team captain, only to revert back to his indifferent play and when the St. Pats became the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Feeling it was time for another change, the newly named Leafs traded Roach to the New York Rangers for goaltender Lorne Chabot for the 1928-29 season.

In his very first year with the Rangers he set still-standing team records with a 1.48 average and 13 shutouts. He also led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup final, only to come up short against the Boston Bruins and their sensational rookie goaltender Tiny Thompson.

The fidgety Roach was the goat of the 1932 Stanley Cup final when Roach allowed 6 goals in each of the three games dubbed by the fans as "the tennis series" when Roach's old team won their very first Stanley Cup as the Maple Leafs.

As a result, Lester Patrick sold Roach to Detroit. In Detroit he came closest to winning the Vezina Trophy in 1932-33 with his fine 1.93 goals against average and 10 shutouts, losing the trophy to Tiny Thompson by a small margin, but beating out Thompson for the first all-star team.

His 13th year in the NHL proved unlucky. He broke his jaw in a car accident and manager Jack Adams shelved him in favor of Wilf Cude about halfway through the 1933-34 season. He and Normie Smith shared the goaltending duties in 1934-35. He closed his career by playing one game with Toronto when George Hainsworth was out of action.

John Ross Roach died July 9th, 1973.


Perry Roach 10:56 AM  

Hello. I showed this piece to my father, John Ross Roach age 74. My dad said his dad was a huge fan of hockey and John Ross Roach the goalie. My Dad was named by his father after John Ross Roach

Thank you for this piece of great history.
Perry Roach
Guelph Ontario

Joe Pelletier 7:46 PM  

I'm glad you found this article. It was an honour to learn about him and share the information with everyone.


Anonymous,  6:24 PM  

John Ross Roach was my mother's uncle. She has great stories about him. I'll tell her that he had someone named after him!
Sarah Travis
Oakville, ON

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