September 21, 2015
Roy Edwards can thank NHL expansion in 1967 for his tenure of duty in the National Hockey League.
Prior to 1967, the NHL only had 6 teams which meant there was only 6 starting goalie jobs in the whole NHL. Backup goalies were starting to become more commonplace, so realistically there was about 12 jobs available. However once the NHL double in size in 1967, the chances for Roy to play in the NHL increased significantly.
Roy had graduated from the junior ranks 10 years earlier in 1957. After starring with the OHA's St. Catherines Teepees, which also boasted Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, Roy turned pro with the IHL's Fort Wayne Komets in 1957-58. However that season will always be remembered more for Roy's late season leaving of the Komets to join the Whitby Dunlops. Roy participated in 7 EOHL games with the Dunlops before the team headed overseas to represent Canada at the 1958 World Championships. Edwards backstopped Canada to the gold medal, sporting a 7-0 record with 3 shutouts and a tiny 0.86 GAA!
Edwards, who was originally Chicago Blackhawks property, headed west in 1958-59 to join the Calgary Stampeders of the WHL. He led the league in wins with 42 in 63 games, with a respectable 3.05 GAA. As a result Edwards moved on to the AHL's Buffalo Bisons where he hoped he could continue his good work and be his last stop before arriving in the NHL.
Edwards led the AHL in games played in 1959-60. He appeared in 72 games with a 33-35-4 record. He started the following year in Buffalo too, but ended the year with the EPHL's Sault Ste Marie Thunderbirds. For all his fine efforts in Buffalo, the Bisons didn't give him the greatest defensive effort and all the work he had to wear on him.
Edwards demotion was the start of a downward spiral in his professional career. Playing with some pretty bad teams, Edwards bounced from Sault Ste Marie to the Pittsburgh Hornets, Portland Buckaroos, Calgary Stampeders, Spokane Comets, and St. Louis Braves before returning to the Buffalo Bisons on a full time basis in 1965. That's 6 teams in 4 leagues in 4 years. The bottom line was Edwards win-loss record took a beating and his GAA ballooned with some pretty bad teams. Even when he returned to Buffalo for two years he struggled to find the success he had early in his pro career.
Things changed for Edwards in 1967, the year of NHL expansion. Edwards was claimed by the expansion Pittsburgh Penguins, who subsequently traded him to the Detroit Red Wings. Roy started the year with the Wings affiliate in Fort Worth (IHL) and was red hot with a 8-0-1 start with 4 shutouts. Roy got recalled quickly by the Wings, finally debuting in the NHL at the age of 30. Roy played solidly in 41 games in the NHL. He broke even with 15 wins and 15 losses, plus 8 ties.
With the exception of 10 games back in Fort Worth, Roy played the 1968-69 season with the NHL Wings as well. This time he improved to 18-11-6 with a 2.54 GAA, almost a full goal-a-game less than the previous year. He also added 4 shutouts.
Roy had a strong third year in 1969-70 with a 24-15-6 with a 2.59 GAA. He was named the Wings Most Valuable Player in that season, outdistancing the immortal Gordie Howe in voting.
1970-71 was not nearly such a great year for Edwards. He continued to play well, but his season was marred by a serious head injury. During a game in 1971, the helmetless Edwards suffered a frightening fractured skull. Edwards was never quite the same after that, partly because he experimented with early mask/helmet combos.
Edwards announced plans to retire after the 1970-71 season, but was claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He attended the Pens camp and played well. However Edwards then decided that the after affects of the skull injury were too much and decide to retire. He did come out of retirement part way through the season, playing in 15 games where he played strongly (2.55 GAA) in front of a poor team (2-8-4 win/loss record). However Edwards didn't finish the season, deciding he couldn't handle the job, and went back into retirement. Exhaustion was the official reason for his leaving the ice.
The Red Wings reacquired Edwards rights before the 1972-73 season. Edwards felt his head woes had seceded enough to give the NHL another try. He played most of the year, posting a career high 27 wins in 52 games. His 2.63 GAA was enhanced by his league leading 6 shutouts.
Roy played in only 4 games in 1973-74 before he retired again, this time for good.
Edwards fine career ended with 97 NHL wins against 88 losses and 38 ties in 236 NHL games. His career 2.92 GAA is very respectable. Edwards never had much of a chance in the playoffs however. Only once did he see post season action, going 0-3 in 4 games in 1969-70.
Edwards had worked in the cabinetry business for many years after leaving the ice. He passed away at St. Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton Ontario on August 16, 1999. Edwards, who was only 62, was suffering from dementia.
Roy's nephew Don Edwards would be a notable longtime goaltender in the NHL during the 1980s.