Joe Crozier has dedicated his life to family and hockey, so it was only fitting that his son Richard gave Joe’s acceptance speech as the former Rochester Americans player, coach and general manager was officially inducted into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame on Monday in a ceremony at Circus Maximus Theatre at Caesars Atlantic City.
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“I could go on and on about the outstanding championship hockey teams that my father coached in Rochester in the 1960’s. I can’t tell you the number of times my dad would point to the banners at the Rochester War Memorial, or how when driving to Rochester from Buffalo, he would always make the declaration that Rochester was ‘his town,’” said Richard Crozier. “And while my father had success in other cities such as Cincinnati, Moncton, Buffalo, Vancouver, Calgary, Kitchener and Toronto, there is no doubt that Rochester is not only where he found his greatest success, but it is also the city where he has the most emotional attachment to the players, people, and to the franchise. As my father has boasted on many occasions, the fans in Rochester are the best fans in the game.”
Joe was joined at the induction ceremony by his wife, Bonnie, their sons Richard and Gregory, and six grandchildren.
A native of Winnipeg, Crozier played 12 professional seasons as a defenseman, making AHL stops with the Springfield Indians and Providence Reds before he first joined the Rochester Americans in 1959-60 for two seasons. In 1963, Crozier returned to Rochester to become the team’s head coach , and in 1964-65, after he added the duties of general manager, Crozier’s club was the class of the American Hockey League. They went 48-21-3, setting a team record for wins that would stand for 34 years, then dispatched Quebec and Hershey to capture the franchise’s first Calder Cup.
Crozier kept his Amerks on top of the league in 1965-66, winning a second consecutive Calder Cup after another dominating regular season. And following a loss to Pittsburgh in the 1967 Finals, he became the third head coach in AHL history to win three Calder Cups when Rochester reclaimed the title in 1968. During his six full seasons as an AHL head coach, Crozier reached five Finals and won three league championships. With a career record of 305-199-46, Crozier’s .596 lifetime winning percentage ranks second among the 16 members of the AHL’s 300-win fraternity, and his Rochester Americans of the late 60’s remain the only team in league history to reach four consecutive Calder Cup Finals.
“When (AHL President & CEO) Dave Andrews called me and told me I’d be going into the Hall of Fame, I was so excited it was unbelievable, it was like winning another Calder Cup,” Crozier said Monday. “Thank you very much, I really appreciate it.”
Crozier was honored at Monday’s ceremony with a retrospective video narrated by play-by-play announcer Mike “Doc” Emrick that included personal messages from four of his former players: Randy Cunneyworth, head coach of the Montreal Canadiens; Larry Carriere, now the assistant coach of the Canadiens; Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau; and iconic hockey broadcaster and former Amerk Don Cherry.
Each of the players-turned-coaches reflected on what “The Crow” meant to him and shared special memories, with Boudreau saying he still uses drills in his practices that he calls “Crozier drills.” Cherry, meanwhile, shared one of his favorite stories about his superstitious bench boss.
“He was my coach for six years and I had so much fun (playing for Joe Crozier), we won three Calder Cups,” Cherry said. “I remember one time, we used to have a plastic garbage can in the room, and he used to come in and kick it all the time, but we replaced it with a steel one. He came in, kicked the thing, broke his toe, and wore a slipper on it. We went on a (winning) streak so he wouldn’t take it off. He really was unbelievable. Joe, you’re a great coach, I don’t know where I’d be without you… you’re a great guy and you deserve this great honor.”
While the admiration for Crozier by his former players was evident, it was also clear that while hockey was his life’s passion, he was willing to sacrifice it in order to be there for his family.
“I’m so proud of you, dad. Not just because you’re a successful hockey coach, and now an AHL Hall of Famer. I’m proud of you because you’re a great father,” Richard concluded in his speech. “And while the rest of the world recognizes you as a Hall of Famer today, you’ve been in my Hall of Fame for a long, long time.”