Sunday, June 30, 2013

Robbie Irons and the Three Minute Career

To be fair to Robbie Irons, the three minute career refers only to his time in the NHL. The Toronto born goaltender played well over 500 professional games and was a mainstay during the 1970's for the Fort Wayne Komets of the International Hockey League. The story of his three minute NHL stint is a good one and involves two of the greatest goalies of all time.

Two seasons after leading the OHA in shutouts with the Kitchener Rangers, 22 year-old Robbie Irons found himself a member of the St. Louis Blues. The Blues were in their second year of existence and featured in net 37 year-old Glenn Hall and 39 year-old Jacques Plante. The two future Hall of Famers had been splitting the goaltending duties evenly and on the night of November 13, 1968 nothing had changed. Hall got the start at home against the New York Rangers, while Plante got the night off and was upstairs in the press box helping out on the television broadcast. This meant that young Robbie Irons was the dressed back-up on the Blues bench.

As well, this was the first game ever that Glenn Hall would be wearing a face mask. This fact wold help contribute to Robbie Irons three minute NHL career. Just over one minute into the game, Ranger sniper Vic Hadfield drove a hard shot past Hall to open the scoring and a half a minute later St. Louis
Defenceman Noel Picard was penalized for a delay of game by referee Vern Buffey. Hall, who was furious with the call and likely the early goal by Hadfield charged at the official and pushed Buffey with his gloved hand. This action of course earned Hall a game misconduct.

In came the rookie Irons. During his subsequent warm-up however, he took a shot off the right ankle and required some time for repairs. He would be able to play, but this extra delay allowed Plante to rush downstairs and suit up. He took over for Irons with only five minutes elapsed in the first period.
Irons had faced no shots in his three minutes of relief time. Plante stopped all 23 directed his way and the Blues won 3-1. He said after the game, "Too bad I don't get credit for the shutout."

This would be the extent of Robbie Irons NHL career. He played parts of the next three seasons with the Kansas City Blues of the Central League before playing 482 games with Fort Wayne. He retired after the 1980/81 season and still shares the dubious record for shortest NHL career by a goalie, his three minute appearance was equalled in 1993/94 by Chicago's Christian Soucy.

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