SUN Hockey Pool

Geezer goalie has been great

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

Dwayne Roloson has given himself a chance to have an extended career in order to write a modern day geezer goalie story.

Sportswriters don't cheer for teams. We cheer for stories. And no matter what the final fate of the Edmonton Oilers, Roloson is wrapping up this season as a sensational story.

While the odds against it are ridiculous, can you imagine how good a story Roli The Goalie would be if he stopped 43 to 51 shots a night in the next three games and ...

Well, maybe it would be too much to ask to have that great of a geezer goalie story. But he's the only reason the Oilers are still alive to even contemplate being any sort of story beyond this evening.

Maybe the Oilers should sign Roloson up for a new contract, bring back Curtis Joseph and try to duplicate the Glenn Hall-Jacques Plante combination when those two geriatric goalies combined to share a Vezina Trophy with combined ages totalling 77 back in 1969.

And at the end of it, maybe Roloson could be like the-born-in-January-1929 story Plante wrote as the world's most grizzled goalie playing his last year pro here with the Oilers in the World Hockey Association in 1974-75 when he won more than he lost playing only the home games and spending the afternoons, when the team was on the road, holding hands with his wife during public skating sessions at Hawrelak Park.

But mostly Roloson's given himself a chance at writing another Johnny Bower story.

"I haven't thought of myself in Johnny Bower terms," Roloson said yesterday. "But I met Johnny a few times when he held clinics in my hometown of Simcoe, Ont. Any time anyone wants to compare me to Johnny Bower, I'll take it as a compliment."

Bower played 11 years in the minors before he made it to the NHL. And unless you count Lester Patrick, who put on the pads as a coach for one game, Bower was the oldest goalie, at age 44, to play in the NHL.

Bower was Roloson's age when he was winning three straight Stanley Cups for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1962-64.

He also platooned with Terry Sawchuk, another elderly custodian of the cord cottage, to lead the Leafs to their last championship, in 1967.

The 39-year-old Roloson didn't spend all those years in the minors like Bower but he sees the angle.

"I didn't come out of college until I was 25. We played 36 to 44 games a year, not the 80 to 100 they play in junior hockey and minor leagues. And in my first four years in the NHL I didn't play much," said the mature 'minder who stopped 51 against Anaheim and 43 against Vancouver in Edmonton's only two wins in the last eight games.

Roloson will be the oldest NHL goalie to play consecutive games when he leads the still-alive-if-barely-breathing Oilers into battle against the Los Angeles Kings tonight, and coach Craig MacTavish says he'll make it 38 straight if the Oilers can keep themselves mathematically alive to the regular season finale Saturday night in Calgary.

Roloson, who didn't practise with the Oilers yesterday and has been required to show up for very few practices over the past month, says it's been great to have Pete Peeters as goaltender coach through this because Peeters once came within a game of equalling Gerry Cheevers' record of 32 consecutive wins with the Boston Bruins.

MacTavish says he thinks it's more than that. He says he's come to the conclusion Roloson thrives when he's not only No. 1 but the Only One.

"I think there's a peace of mind knowing that there's no option, that no matter what happens, he'll be in there. I think the situation last year hurt him with Mathieu Garon."

Roloson agrees.

"There's a comfort zone for me when I don't have to worry about anything else other than playing the next game."

MacTavish admits Roloson has been writing a terrific non-so-tired old 'tender of the twine story.

"He's flying in the face of modern theory of what goalies are able to do at his age, that at age 39 you can't play this much and that at age 39 your skills diminish."

Roloson hopes his play to this point, and hopefully his play this week, will buy him more time.

"I want to play as long as I can play. I'd love to play another three or four years," he said.

One thing, though, no matter if that turns out to be here or somewhere else, Roloson says he's not going to do what he did this year.

Figuring he was likely to be traded in the first few weeks of the season, Roloson kept his family in Port Dover, Ont. and lived alone.

"It has been hell," he said. "I don't think our family will do this again, ever."


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