The seventh in a series looking at the Class of 2009, scheduled for induction on Oct. 29 at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.
Building the Buffalo Sabres had to proceed from the goal line out. Substance before style.
So Punch Imlach, Buffalo's first-ever general manager and head coach, secured a top-notch goaltender before doing almost anything else. In 1970 -- the Sabres' first year in the NHL -- Imlach dealt winger Tom Webster -- whom he had just grabbed in the expansion draft -- to the Detroit Red Wings for goalie Roger Crozier, and Crozier instantly became a cornerstone of the franchise.
Now, Crozier will be honored as one of the best Buffalo sports figures ever. On Oct. 29, he'll join former quarterback Al Dekdebrun as inductees to the Pride of Western New York, which posthumously honors Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famers.
Crozier's everlasting image may be his caution-to-the-wind style. His willingness to challenge shooters helped keep the young Sabres' heads above water night after night. The goalie freely tossed his 5-foot-8, 160-pound frame into harm's way, far away from the net.
Through six years with the Sabres, Crozier compiled a 74-76-29 record. He played 14 years in all before joining the Washington Capitals' front office. In Buffalo's first-ever NHL game, Crozier dazzled. He stopped 35 of 36 shots to lead Buffalo over Pittsburgh.
Facing 30-plus shots became the norm. The 2,190 shots Crozier faced in his second year with the Sabres remains a single-season team record. Injuries and illness marred a good portion of Crozier's career with Buffalo. Bogged down by pancreatitis, ulcers and gall bladder problems, Crozier often didn't know if he could play until the pregame skate. But he fought through it all; Crozier and Gil Perreault made those early Sabre teams entertaining.
He died in 1996 at the age of 53.
Dekdebrun is one of the eldest football figures in Buffalo sports history. In 1946, he played for the Buffalo Bisons of the All-American Football Conference, where he threw eight touchdowns in eight starts. Dekdebrun went on to play two more seasons in the United States, including one year with the NFL's Boston Yanks. A two-way starter, he also had three interceptions during his year with Buffalo. For his career, he threw 13 touchdown passes.
After these three years in the U.S., Dekdebrun played for the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts. He led the Argos to a Grey Cup in 1950, scoring the team's only touchdown in a 13-0 victory.
Off the field, Dekdebrun opened several sporting goods stores throughout Western New York and was also helped originate Little League Baseball in WNY. He served as commissioner of the first Little League.
Dekdebrun passed away in 2005.
For ticket information e-mail: email@example.com or call Gearhart at 855-4863 or visit: www.GBSHOF.com.