Esso Hockey since 1936Legends Of Hockey
Esso Hockey since 1936
Worters, Roy

Worters, Roy

Despite his 5'3" frame, the aptly named "Shrimp" Worters seemed like a giant to opposing shooters. He became one of the NHL's all-time great goalkeepers, chalking up a phenomenal 66 shutouts in only 12 seasons. But because his tenure was chiefly with the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Americans, Worters never felt the exhilaration of a Stanley Cup win.

The Toronto native grew up in the same part of town as the famous Conacher brothers, Charlie and Lionel. As an amateur he first gained prominence with the Aura Lee squad, the Parkdale Canoe Club and the Toronto Canoe Club Paddlers. Leaving town for a year in 1920-21, he turned in a strong performance in northern Ontario with the Porcupine Miners. Worters was also an accomplished second baseman on the local baseball circuit.

A suspension prevented Worters from competing in 1921-22, but he returned the next year as a member of the Argonauts in the Toronto city senior league. The next autumn saw the 23-year-old venturing south of the border to stop pucks for the Pittsburgh Yellowjackets of the United States Amateur Hockey Association. Over the next two years, Worters led all netminders in a host of categories and became a fan favorite. In 1924-25, he led the team to 25 wins and registered 17 shutouts in 39 games. He was a key reason that the Yellowjackets won consecutive championships in the USAHA.

In 1925-26, Worters made his first foray into the NHL with the expansion Pittsburgh Pirates. The new club boasted essentially the same lineup as the Yellowjackets' championship team of 1924-25, but Worters would have topped the new team's wish list in any event. The man they called "Shrimp" played three seasons with the Pirates, playing in all the team's games in their second and third years. The Pirates were weak defensively, but Worters routinely kept them competitive. One night in their first year, Worters stopped 70 of 73 shots in a 3-1 loss to the New York Americans.

Prior to the 1928-29 season, Worters rejected the Pirates' contract offer, prompting NHL president Frank Calder to suspend the diminutive netminder. A trade to the New York Americans resolved the issue, and Worters would spend the rest of his pro career - except for two games - in the Big Apple. Over a nine-year span, the Americans qualified for the post-season only twice. One of those playoff appearances came in Worters' first year, after he registered a 1.15 goals-against average to elevate the play of a team that had finished in last place the year before. His heroics made Worters the first goalie to win the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.

Shrimp soldiered on, solidifying his place as one of the game's elite goalies. In 1930-31, he led all NHL netminders with a 1.61 goals-against mark and captured the Vezina Trophy. During the ensuing contract negotiations with the Amerks, his legend grew when he demanded - and received - $8,500 per season, an enormous sum for a goalie at that time. What made this coup all the more remarkable was that he'd out-bargained Americans' owner Bill Dwyer, a notorious bootlegger who continually defied the U.S. Prohibition laws.

Even though the Americans remained weak, Worters continued to rack up shutouts and keep his goals-against mark respectable. He was placed on the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1932 and 1934.

He retired after the 1936-37 season. Gritty to the end, he refused to take himself out of the lineup in his final days even though he was suffering from a painful hernia. He never played on any powerhouses, which made his 67 shutouts, 171 wins and his durability all the more impressive.

Worters was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.

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