Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tory Crowder

Troy Crowder almost quit on his pro hockey career before it even really began.

He was drafted by the New Jersey Devils 108th overall in 1986 but he didn't pro until the 1988-89 season. Then after just one season in the minors, Crowder quit, as his love for hockey was waning. He was a goon and although he was good at it, he was never really comfortable with that role. He actually wanted to play on defense.

Crowder left the Devils training camp in 1989 citing personal reasons. He went back to his hometown of Sudbury Ontario and worked in a construction and landscaping job for 5 months. Crowder returned to the Devils in February, and after a 3 game conditioning stint in the minors he finished the season with the Devils, as well as seeing action in two post season games.

The 1990-91 season saw Crowder become a bit of a household name, at least for hockey fans. In his first ever NHL fight Crowder tangled with Bob Probert and won the fight, bloodying his legendary opponent in the process. It was a huge deal at the time. Probert was the NHL's unofficial "heavyweight champion" at the time, and perhaps the most feared fighter since the days of John Ferguson. Crowder's victory over "the champ" was however a double edged sword for Troy - on one hand he had made a name for himself and all but assured himself NHL employment for a couple of seasons at least, but on the other hand his label as a goon was clearly cemented on after this incident. Crowder became the target for every NHL goon - every guy wanted a piece of him to make a name for themselves at Crowder's expense. Such is the life of a hockey goon, and Crowder handled himself very well against all comers.

After a 6 goal, 3 assist season with Jersey, Crowder became an restricted free agent. Because of his handling of Probert and subsequent "title defenses," Crowder was one of the most sought after free agents in the summer of 1991. Having a top-notch enforcer is an essential for all teams at that time and a bidding war ensued. And surprise, surprise, who won that bidding war? The Detroit Red Wings. Crowder would join Probert in the Motor City - the ultimate tag team when it came to NHL superstar protection. The Wings had to give the Devils Randy McKay and Dave Barr as compensation.

Crowder's stint in Detroit was short and painful however. He played in just 7 games before suffering a a back injury early in October 1991. The back injury would keep Crowder out of the lineup for the rest of the season. He was close to returning in May of 1992 but suffered a serious re-occurrence with the injury. Troy sat out for the next two full seasons as well. He retired and tried to get on with his life during that time.

However Troy still had that itch to play hockey. And when he finally got the doctor's clearance to play again, he immediately began looking for a team to play with. The Wings wouldn't offer him a contract, not with his poor injury background, but the Los Angeles Kings did.

Crowder, who signed on September 2nd, 1994 as an unrestricted free agent, played two seasons in Los Angeles. He only played in 44 games over those 2 years though. A wrist injury caused him to miss some time during his first year. In his second year he received a 10 game suspension for hitting a linesman. Crowder was involved in a pre-season fight with the Rangers Darren Langdon. The linesmen stepped into breakup the fight but Crowder kept on swinging, a no-no once the linesmen enter the scene. Crowder accidentally hit linesman Brad Lazarowich with his elbow.

The Kings let Crowder go but the Vancouver Canucks offered him a try-out contract in the pre-season of 1996, and eventually signed him to a one year deal. He played in 30 games for the Canucks, missing 20 games due to a rib injury. Also more often than not, he was a healthy scratch.

Crowder was not a very good player, by any stretch of the imagination. He was a good fighter prior to his injury problems, but that's about all he brought to the table. It bothered him that he was never given the opportunity to prove he could really play at the NHL level, but on the other hand he rarely showed his coaches that he could do a whole lot, either.


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