John Ross Roach was one of the smallest and most exciting goaltenders ever to backstop in the NHL. He played junior hockey for the Toronto Aura Lee team in 1919-20 and then switched to the seniors the following year with the Toronto Granites.
In 1921-22, he turned pro with the Toronto St. Pats. During his rookie season, he was hard pressed to finish the regular season above .500. When he entered the playoffs, however, he just kept getting stronger and more exciting between the pipes as he led his club past the Vancouver Millionaires in a close battle to claim the Stanley Cup.
His rookie season marked the beginning of a 14-year run in the NHL, a lengthy career by the standards of his day. And during many of those seasons, he was a league leader in games played by a goaltender.
In all, Roach played his feisty brand of acrobatics for the St. Pats and later, the Maple Leafs for seven seasons. In 1928-29, he was traded to the New York Rangers where he led the league in games played for each of his four years on Broadway. All went well until the playoffs of 1932. While facing the Leafs in the finals, the little netminder gave up six goals in each of his three appearances. Toronto took the Cup while Roach was ushered out of town in a cash deal that sent him to Detroit.
In the Motor City, he played solidly and by season's end missed winning the Vezina Trophy by only a fraction of a percentage point. To ease his sorrow, however, he was selected to the All-Star team.
By 1933-34, signs of age and wear began to show in his game. His ice time gradually decreased to the point that he was demoted to the minors with the Detroit Olympics of the IAHL in 1934-35. It was there that Roach hung up his pads for good.