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Whatever Happened To The Rover?

Here's a good question: Whatever happened to the rover?

For those who don't know, there actually used to be another player on the ice. Each team had six skaters plus a goalie - two defensemen, a center, a left winger, a right winger and something called a rover.

This is basically 19th century hockey, long gone by the time the NHL formed in 1917. The National Hockey Association, the forerunner to the NHL, last used the position in the 1910-11 season. The western pro league PCHA did continue with the rover throughout that decade.

Essentially the rover kind of played the role of today's center, or perhaps of today's roaming defensemen. Bobby Orr would have been the ultimate modern day rover.

Way back then the defensemen, unlike Orr, didn't participate too much in the offensive side of the rink. In fact they would often just sit back on their own side of the ice and wait for the puck and attackers to return. Similarly the forwards, especially the wingers didn't do much back checking in those days, either.

The rover, however, was all over the ice. The rover, who was usually the team's best skater, jumped up on offense and hustled back to help out the defensemen. He was probably one of the most spectacular players on the ice to watch.

Who were the best rovers of all time? The Hockey Hall of Fame lists 19 of it's honoured members as rovers (though all played multiple positions). Names that may still be familiar with today's die-hard hockey fans would include Newsy Lalonde, Lester Patrick, Hobey Baker and Cyclone Taylor.

So whatever happened to the position of the rover?

It seems the overseers of the game back then felt they needed to open up the game. The ice was too crowded, and by removing a couple of bodies allowed for more space. Remember, the game was very professionalized as the 1910s arrived. It was good business to encourage a faster game that was more entertaining for the paying customers.


Dan said…
it sounds like it was too much like soccer

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