Andy Roach

Andy Roach was an undersized, skilled defenseman. His game was far better suited for the big ice of international hockey rather than the standard rink and more physical play of the National Hockey League.

Undrafted and 32 years of age, it was highly unlikely Roach was ever going to get a shot at the NHL. The Ferris State graduate seemed quite content to star in German leagues and represent USA internationally.

Then a funny thing happened - he became the talk of the hockey world.

At the 2004 IIHF World Championships in Prague Roach scored two pretty shootout goals.

The first jawdropper lifted the United States to a stunning quarter-final upset over Jaromir Jagr and the home favourites. The second against Slovakia won the Americans a surprise bronze medal.

"Against the Czechs, it was Tomas Vokoun in net, I came in at pretty good speed and almost put the brakes on at the hash marks," recalled Roach. "I'm a right-hand shot and came in with the puck on my forehand, and made a hard move to my left, and he slid across, and once I went across hard I came back to my forehand and had pretty much an open net to slide it in. There were 18,000 fans at that game and you could hear a pin drop," Roach said. "It was amazing. Their whole country was just devastated."

Against Slovakia, Roach skated in with the puck on his forehand, went to his right but shifted the puck to his backhand and shot it, amazingly, across his body to the top left corner.

So amazingly that when the NHL opted to end tied games with a shootout contest themselves, the St. Louis Blues sought out Roach as their shootout specialist.

Roach signed a $450,000 contract with the Blues coming out of lost locked-out season. The NHL made a commitment to opening up the game by eliminating obstruction, allowing skilled players like Roach to flourish. But it was evident early that he was too small. He took three minor penalties in his first NHL game. After just 5 games his NHL career was over. He was sent to the minors and later released and returned to Europe.

After all that time waiting, Roach appreciated every fleeting moment in the NHL.

"It's great, just great, it's everything I thought it would be and even more," Roach said. "Playing at this level, you dream about it. When I went to Europe at 24 I actually told myself: 'That's it, you're giving up on the dream by coming over here.:

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