Rollie Melanson, born June 28, 1960 in Moncton, New Brunswick, had one of the best nicknames in all of hockey history. Rollie The Goalie was simple but flowed so naturally off of the tongue that he will always be remembered for his name if not his play.
Rollie played his junior hockey for the Windsor Spitfires and Oshawa Generals of the OHA up until 1979-80.
In 1980-81 Melanson spent most of his professional rookie year with Indianapolis of the CHL. He set that league on fire, earning the CHL rookie of the year award with 31-16-3 record and a league best 2.57 GAA. Although he was named to the First All Star team, somehow he was not named as the league's best goalie.
His strong play forced the Islanders to move long time goalie Glenn Resch (better known as Chico, another great nickname). Chico was upset at his lack of playing time as he mostly backed up Billy Smith, who would prove himself to be one of the all time best money goalies in league history. Melanson played in 11 games with the Isles to end the season, recording an impressive 8-1-1 record and a solid 3.10 GAA.
Like Resch before him, Rollie's job would be to be the backup as long as Billy Smith was around. Coach Al Arbour often split the two in the regular season but used Smith almost exclusively in the playoffs. As a result, Melanson became labelled as a backup and never really did get a chance to prove himself as a starting goalie in the 10 years he was in the NHL.
Rollie, who won three Stanley Cups with the Isles, had his best year in 1982-83. Besides helping the Islanders win their fourth and final Stanley Cup he also had his best statistical year. He recorded a career best 2.66 GAA in 44 games and recorded his first NHL shutout. He led the league in save percentage with a .909 mark. He also shared the Jennings with Billy Smith (lowest goals against) and he, not Smith, was named to NHL second All Star team.
Rollie was traded to the Minnesota North Stars on November 19, 1984 after playing 8 games with the Islanders. The Islanders were making room for another up and coming goalie, this one named Kelly Hrudey. Rollie played the rest of 84-85 and the start of 85-86 with Minnesota. However Rollie had a tough time in Minny, playing behind Don Beaupre and Gilles Meloche on a very weak defensive team.
Rollie was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on December 9, 1985, and he played 4 solid years there, but never showed anything to convince most people that he was anything more than an average starting goalie. And since in the NHL you have to be an above average, downright elite goalie to be starting netminder, Rollie was best served in the role of solid backup,
1987-88 proved to be Rollie’s last real good year in the NHL. He recorded a career best two shutouts and played in a career high 47 games, although he had a high GAA of 4.37.
Rollie only played four games in 1988-89 before being sent down to New Haven of the AHL. He was acquired as a free agent by the New Jersey Devils on August 10, 1989. He spent all of 1989-90 with the Utica Devils of the AHL. He got into one game with New Jersey in 90-91 but was shelled for six goals.
He was traded to Montreal on September 20, 1991. The deal was a blockbuster as the Devils traded team captain Kirk Muller for enigmatic Stephane Richer and checker Tom Chorske. Rollie played well in 9 games as a backup to Patrick Roy. He recorded a 2.68 GAA and an excellent 2 shutouts. He seemed to regaining some of his old form
However Rollie retired at the conclusion of that season. He did come out of retirement to play for the lowly ColHL's Brantford Smoke later on in the 1992-93 season, leading them to their championship. And in 1993-94 he played 7 games in the AHL.
Rollie the Goalie went on to become Rollie the Goalie Coach. In fact he was one of the most influential goaltender coaches in the game.