Joe Crozier is turning 83 years old and hockey is still an every day part of his life and when he was called and told he was being inducted to the American Hockey League Hall of Fame he said, “It was like winning another Calder Cup.” It’s almost impossible to put into words how amazing it is talking to someone like him about the sport. Anyone who says that “hockey is just a game” and thinks people are crazy for devoting time to it is an indication that they aren’t around the sport very much. It’s an every day part of life for a lot of people. It’s so much more than the 60 minutes played during a game. Hockey is the best sport on the planet (I’m biased of course).
(keep reading for video of the ceremony as well as the speech that Rich Crozier gave for his dad)
Joe is still very much in tune with what’s going on with the hockey community. He follows the Sabres and Amerks closely. “The Amerks aren’t too far behind Toronto,” he said. He’s always watching the NHL Network. He always has tapes and dvd’s around as well. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be still involved with the game so much, it’s who he is. Hockey is a big part of who many of us are.
When the Sabres bought the Rochester Americans it was two teams being reunited after a nasty split. The Sabres and Amerks are meant to be together.
“It meant a lot to me,” Crozier said about coming back to Rochester for the first game of the season. “I did not know it was going to be like with all of the alumni, it was a great honor.”
I asked him about the word development being used instead of just winning and he said, “When I won Calder Cups at that age the players were a little older than the kids that are sent down now. My ages were 26, 27 and 28.. they were a lot older players so naturally they had a great chance to win a Calder Cup. You’ve got to mix and match. You’ve got to have some older players but mostly younger players to develop.”
That’s one of the area’s of the game that has changed so much over the years. The AHL has always been a development league but the differences in ages of players has changed the game. It’s one reason many older fans can’t stand the game now compared to “what it used to be.” The mix of veteran leaders and young players is the recipe for success and also development.
Talking about player safety and equipment he said, “They’re going in the right direction but it’s a faster game now.” He said that the game now is so different that many years ago all of the equipment wasn’t necessary.
In the video you can watch below Don Cherry talks for a few moments and one of the things he said was, “I wouldn’t be where I am today with you.”
When Crozier was asked about Don Cherry the reply was, “He was a different type of player that Don Cherry. He was sort of a funny guy. He was a tough kid. When he runs that rock em sock em that’s real good because the kids listen to him. He was a good player, he had lots to say.”
This is the sixth AHL All-Star Game for Hershey Bears forward Keith Aucoin and he said, “To see Don Cherry talk about these guys and how much they mean to his career and you think how good of guys these guys were as coaches. Everyone knows who Don Cherry so if he says something like that you know they’ve done a good job.”
Zack Kassian was in attendance with all of the other players and when I asked him about the ceremony he said, “To hear someone like that it’s special, you definitely listen and you try to take as much as you can to get better.” Kassian also said how great it is hearing from guys like that who’ve played for the same organization and he added, “it kind of makes you play a little harder.”
“It shows how great these organizations have been throughout the years and how legendary they are and how many great players have come through,” Keith Aucoin said talking about how there’s always a Rochester or Hershey connection everywhere in the hockey world.
At the end of the ceremony Crozier thanked the Buffalo Sabres and also said, “What a team that we have now. It’s just a matter of time before we put it together and we’re going to go from there. Just stay with us. They ask me now what’s wrong with the Buffalo Sabres and I say just hold your horses gang it’s just a matter of time and we’ll put this together. I’ve done it in the past and it’ll happen again, it’s just a matter of time. Stay with us, just don’t say what’s the matter with those Sabres. We’ve got good ownership and good people running the ship and that’s the most important thing.”
I asked Kassian about those comments and he said, “it’s all you really can do, take it a day at a time. Work hard at the rink but at the same time have fun.”
“You’ve got more time than I have so go ahead all you want,” Joe said laughing when thanked for the interview.
As for the induction ceremony, it’s a must see especially for Amerks and Sabres fans (the text of the speech by his son Rich is down below as well):
Also, here’s an excellent article in the D&C about Joe Crozier. http://on.rocne.ws/zwMDT0
Here’s a few pictures of Joe and his family:
Here is the text of the speech from Rich Crozier:
Good morning. My name is Rich Crozier, and I am Joe’s son.
What an honor it is for me to have the opportunity to share a few remarks on behalf of my father.
I’d first like to congratulate all the other inductees and comment that my father feels great pride in sharing this honor with all of you. I’d also like to introduce the members of our family who were able to be here with us . . .
It means a lot to my dad and to me that so many of you made an effort to come here to Atlantic City and share in this special day.
As I have reflected over the past few weeks on what I wanted to share with all of you regarding my father and his successes in hockey, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the many memories and stories that have accompanied my fathers career in hockey.
65 years ago my father left home in Winnipeg at age 17 to begin his journey and certainly this moment, this honor, is the exclamation point on a fantastic career in the game.
I could go on and on about the outstanding championship hockey teams that my father coached in Rochester in the 1960’s. I can not tell you the number of times that my father would point up to the Championship banners in the War Memorial, or even when driving in to Rochester from Buffalo and him making the declaration “that Rochester was his town.” And while my dad had success in other cities such as Cincinnati, Moncton, Buffalo, Vancouver, Calgary, Kitchener and Toronto, there is no doubt that Rochester is the franchise where not only he found the most success with, but the city that continues to mean so much to him.
This honor today would not be possible if it wasn’t for the Rochester Americans franchise and their devoted fans. As my dad has boasted on many occasions, the fans in Rochester are the best hockey fans in the game of hockey. To the Rochester Americans: Your nomination of my father for this special recognition is a very classy move by a first class organization.
In addition, I could also go on and on about the great players that my dad has had the opportunity to coach. As a coach myself, I realize the importance great players have in your ability to succeed. He especially wanted me to mention specific players from his teams in the 60’s including Don Cherry, Al Arbor, Dick Gamble, Gerry Cheevers and Bronco Horvath, to name a few.
Furthermore, I could even share remarks about my own observations of my father as a coach and his 65-year career in hockey. Joe Crozier has dedicated his life to this game. And what I personally respect about my dad is that he dedicated his life to his passion. If you know my father, he is very intense, has a tremendous work ethic, and is a fantastic motivator. He was successful as a coach because he brought this passion, intensity and work ethic to his teams and insisted that his players emulate his character strengths on the ice.
And a motivator……This is a man that would bring his teams to the race track in Batavia, have them lose all their money gambling, just so he could throw wads of bills down on the dressing room floor to shout “you want this money, go out there and earn” and as we know his players would earn it! As we know, his player usually did!
And yet, while I reflected on all of those great accomplishments, character traits and motivational tactics of my dad, I think it is most important that I share with you why I believe my father is most deserving of this tremendous honor today. And while I can go on and on about how passionate and intense my dad is about hockey, I can tell you that there is only one thing that is more important, and that is family. What I respect my father the most for is a decision that he made in the mid-1980’s when I was still a young boy. My dad was asked to step down as assistant coach of the Sabres and was faced with a difficult decision about the next step in his career. As a successful hockey coach for many years, certainly there were many opportunities for him as a coach to further his career. Instead of him moving our family and my mother for the 9th time in 10 years, my dad made the decision to sacrifice his personal aspirations for the betterment of his family. He worked in the hockey department as a scout for the Sabres and even later sold tickets in the box office. He continued to go to work every day with the same passion, intensity and work ethic as if he were behind the bench. And while my brother and I gained our own successes in hockey winning national championships at Michigan or the state championship at St Joe’s High school, my dad, the championship coach stood on the sidelines beaming with pride knowing that it was his sacrifice, his choice of family, was what allowed my brother and I to be successful in the game as well.
I am so proud of you dad, not just because you’re a great hockey coach or even now an AHL Hall of Famer. I’m proud because you’re a great dad. 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. CONGRATULATIONS!