Monday, January 3, 2011
Born on this date in 1955, Rick St. Croix began his road to the NHL with his hometown Kenora Muskies in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in 1969-70. From there he progressed up the ladder to the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League for another three seasons.
Following his junior career, St. Croix was then drafted by both the Houston Aeros of the WHA 169th overall and the Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL 72nd. Since the Flyers drafted St. Croix much higher and were the defending Stanley Cup champions, they must have seemed the more attractive choice for St. Croix, which proved correct when the Aeros folded just three seasons later.
In a convenient move for St. Croix, he went from playing for the Generals to the... Generals, only this time with Flint of the International Hockey League. There he played two seasons in 1975-76 and 1976-77 prior to joining the Maine Mariners of the American Hockey League. He played 40 games for the Mariners that season to lead the Mariners in starts among the four goaltenders used by Maine that season on his way to a 22-14-2 record along with a pair of shutouts.
Once in the playoffs, the Mariners received a bye in Round 1 as a result of their first place finish in the North Division. In Round 2 they defeated the Nova Scotia Voyageur in seven games to advance to the Calder Cup Finals, where they defeated the New Haven Nighthawks in five games to win the AHL championship in only their first season of existence.
Also during the 1977-78 season, St. Croix made his NHL debut with the Flyers and appeared in seven games with a 2-4-1 record.
The following season St. Croix dressed for 22 games with the Mariners (10-9-3), the Philadelphia Firebirds, also of the AHL, for nine games (4-4-1) as well as a pair of games with the Flyers (0-1-1).
St. Croix was once again the number one goaltender for Maine in 1979-80, going 25-14-7 in 45 games on his way to being named an AHL First Team All-Star and sharing the Harry "Hap" Holmes Award as Maine led the AHL with the lowest goals against average. He also appeared in a single game for the Flyers that season, a win in which he allowed just two goals.
His performance with the Mariners led to St. Croix becoming a full-time member of the Flyers for 1980-81 as part of a goaltending trio with veteran Phil Myre and former Mariners teammate Pete Peeters. St. Croix went 13-7-6 in 27 games as a rookie.
In 1981-82 St. Croix posted a 13-9-6 mark in 29 games, but became expendable the following season with the emergence of Swede Pelle Lindbergh. Oddly, despite the lack of room in the Philadelphia goal, St. Croix would be traded in mid-January to the Toronto Maple Leafs for another goaltender, Michel Larocque, who would only play two games for the Flyers before he too was traded away a year later.
St. Croix guarding the net, with some additional help, while in Toronto
St. Croix arrived in Toronto in time to play in 17 games for the remainder of the 1982-83 season. He was also assigned to the St. Catharines Saints of the AHL for their first round playoff series against the Rochester Americans, which they lost in seven games.
Back with Toronto for the 1984-85 season St. Croix fought for playing time in the overcrowded Maple Leafs crease, managing to get into 11 games while battling with Tim Bernhardt (37 games), Ken Wregget (23) and Allan Bester (15). Unable to secure enough minutes in Toronto, St. Croix was assigned to St. Catharines once again, where he played in 18 contests.
He spent his final season as a professional with the IHL's Fort Wayne Comets, where he led the club in games and wins with a 25-13-0 record in 42 starts on the way to a first place finish in the West division.
St. Croix was Ed Belfour's goaltending coach with the Dallas Stars in 1999 when they won the Stanley Cup and is currently an assistant coach with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL and runs the well known Rick St. Croix's School of Goaltending.
Today's featured jersey is a 1977-78 Maine Mariners Rick St. Croix jersey. St. Croix played three seasons with the Mariners, during which they won the Calder Cup trophy as AHL champions in both 1978 and 1979, the only team in AHL history to win the Calder Cup in their first two seasons. The Mariners naturally adopted the Flyers colors and jersey template during their time as a Flyers affiliate.
In 1983-84 the Mariners affiliation changed to the New Jersey Devils and won their third Calder Cup despite a losing record during the regular season and no players in the top ten in league scoring! After the Mariners final season of 1986-87, New Jersey relocated the franchise to Utica, New York and renamed it the Devils.
A new Maine Mariners club was immediately created in 1987-88 to replace the franchise which moved to Utica, only this time affiliated with the Boston Bruins. That club was moved to Providence, RI in 1992. After a one year gap, the Baltimore Skipjacks moved to Portland, Maine, where they became the Portland Pirates, where they continue to play in the AHL today. The Pirates duplicated the Mariners feat, and brought the Calder Cup back to Portland in 1994 in their first season of existence.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1981-82 Philadelphia Flyers Rick St. Croix jersey. 1981-82 was the first season the Sandow SK logo would appear on the back of the Flyers jerseys which had previously carried no brand identification.
Both Sandow SK and Maska logos began appearing on NHL jerseys during the 1979-80 season and eventually migrated from the lower right side of the jerseys to the upper back, just below the neck line. They became so important that CCM and Starter began putting them on both the lower right and left side of Wayne Gretzky's jerseys because of his habit of tucking in the right side of his jersey hid their logo from view.