February 13, 2007

Roy "Shrimp" Worters

Shrimp Worters is probably the smallest player ever to play in the NHL. Height and weight records from the earliest days are a bit sketchy, but no first-hand accounts have ever disputed Worters' distinction.

Shrimp stood all of 5'3" and never weighed more than 130lbs, but he was a giant of the goaltending crease. Most of those 130lbs must have been from his huge heart.

Worters is seldom mentioned when discussing the greatest goalies of all time, likely because he played with some pretty bad teams. It would be tough to imagine how bad those teams would be without Worters.

Worters played most of his career with the New York Americans during the depression years. He also had stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Montreal Canadiens.

Playing on bad teams ruined his career winning percentage, which was only .353. He also never got a chance to really prove himself in the playoffs due to these bad teams. He only played in 11 playoff games, never winning the Stanley Cup.

Best known for his days with the New York Americans, Worters started out with the Pittsburgh Pirates for three seasons. He made an ever-lasting impression on the Amerks brass on December 26, 1926. The Pirates and New York Americans set an NHL record by combining for 141 shots. The Americans won the game 3-1 as New York had 73 shots and Pittsburgh had 68. Roy Worters made 70 saves for the Pirates and Jake Forbes made 67 saves for NY in a 3-1 New York victory.

In perhaps Worters' greatest accomplishment, he became the first goalie to win the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player in 1929. After arriving from Pittsburgh after a lengthy contract dispute, Worters instantly made the Amerks into a solid team, recording a second place overall record of 16-12-10, a tremendous improvement over the last place finish the season before. That set up a memorable playoff showing with the cross-town Rangers, but the Rangers would prevail.

The Hart trophy nod was a great show of recognition for his efforts with a lowly NY American squad. He later would add the Vezina (1931) to his collection and two all star berths. After winning the Vezina in 1931, he demanded and was rewarded with a three-year contract for $8,500 (US) per season, an unheard-of sum for goalies in those days.

Despite his incredible play, the Americans remained a weak team, only qualifying for 2 playoffs in Worters 9 seasons tending goal. His 171-229-83 career won/loss record is reflective of the weak teams he played for, but his 67 career shutouts speaks volumes about just how good this guy was.

Worters also is known as a goaltending innovator. He w as the first goalie to really use the blocker as a tactic. In those days the blocker was really just a heavily padded glove, but he was the first to use that hand to deflect shots into the corner as opposed to trying to catch them.

Worters was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969, 12 years after his death from throat cancer.

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