Hall of Fame goalie reflects on Cup wins, “bad choices”
Patrick Roy would love to return to coaching in the NHL, but the four-time Stanley Cup-champion goaltending legend says he won’t be sitting by the phone in the days ahead awaiting a call for an interview.
“It’s hard for me to get a job because of the way I left Colorado,” Roy said from Quebec City on Thursday, still weary four days after having coached Quebec of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to the 2023 Memorial Cup championship. “I know I made some bad choices. I know the way I left; everything I did, could have an effect on today’s perspective and attitude toward myself. I have to live with that. I know that I’ve learned from my mistakes. The past is the past but sometimes, you have to live with your past. I understand the situation.”David Stubbs
Roy caught the Avalanche off-guard in August 2016 with his abrupt resignation as Head Coach and Vice President of Hockey Operations. His dual role didn’t mesh, as he viewed it, with the vision of the Colorado organization and then-executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic, who today is President Of Hockey Operations.
“I understand now, better than ever, that you can’t be in management and coach a team at the same time,” Roy said Thursday. “If you’re the coach, you coach. If you’re GM, that’s what you do.”David Stubbs
The Class of 2006 Hockey Hall of Famer stepped out of the spotlight for a couple of seasons, returning to Quebec of the QMJHL as coach in 2018-19. He had coached the Remparts for eight seasons before joining the Avalanche.
The bold and quick decision to exit Colorado, which was true to his intensity and fiery nature that fueled him to become one of the greatest goalies of all time, has followed Roy since that day.
It was boiling blood that famously ended his time in Montreal in 1995 when he butted heads with Canadiens coach Mario Tremblay. Left in the net for nine Detroit Red Wings goals, Roy finally was given the hook during a December 2 game at the Montreal Forum. Coming off the ice, he strode past Tremblay behind the bench to tell then-Canadiens president Ronald Corey, in the first row of seats, that he had played his final game for Montreal.
The head-on collision between two strong egos — his and Tremblay’s — triggered Roy’s trade to the Avalanche four days later, a multi-player deal that remains a fresh wound to many Montreal Canadiens fans.
Emotion no doubt played into Roy’s decision to quit the Avalanche, citing philosophical differences with management.
On June 4, in what he declares was his final game as coach of the Remparts, Roy guided the team to the Memorial Cup championship. It was Quebec’s first crown since he coached it to the title in 2006, his first season as their coach.
“There’s no better ending than that, that’s for sure,” the 57-year-old Roy said Thursday.David Stubbs
It would not be for financial reasons that Roy would embrace a return to NHL coaching ranks. He says a telephone that rings or doesn’t will not define his life.
“It was fun when I came back to juniors five years ago to prove to myself that I could help Quebec win,” he said. “I know that I was very lucky to have such a great group of players this year. I was saying this a lot when I was a goalie: You’re as good as the players in front of you. It’s the same thing for the coach.David Stubbs
“You can be as good a coach as you want but your players make you look good and that’s exactly what happened with this (Memorial Cup) group. They were so receptive, so committed to winning and I was very lucky for that.”David Stubbs
Roy began with Quebec in 2005-06, behind the bench for eight seasons as coach, general manager, and part of the team’s ownership group until the Avalanche hired him on May 23, 2013. He guided Colorado to the Central Division title in 2013-14 with 112 points, the second-most in Avalanche history at the time, and won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year.
But Colorado, upset in seven games by the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference First Round, failed to qualify for the playoffs in Roy’s second and third seasons, his coaching record 130-92-24 when he resigned.
“I might have taken things for granted when I started with Colorado,” he said in reflection. “You think the door will always be open but you realize that’s not how it works. When you have the chance, you’d better work hard. There are a lot of good coaches and good hockey people around and everybody is replaceable. It should be seen as a privilege when you have the opportunity.”David Stubbs
“I coached Quebec for 13 years and they were awesome. I was very privileged to have the chance to work with so many young players, as coach and general manager. I’m so thankful to them. The coaching staff pushed them every year, trying to help them. They were very receptive, embracing what we put on the table.”David Stubbs
Roy happily turned the page back to 1996 and Saturday’s anniversary of his first of two Stanley Cup wins with Colorado, capped with a sweep-completing 1-0 Game 4 victory, a triple-overtime marathon that ended at 1:07 a.m. ET.
Roy made 63 saves, Florida’s John Vanbiesbrouck beaten just once on the 56 shots he faced. It was the first time since the five-game 1953 Stanley Cup Final that an NHL season ended with a 1-0 overtime game, the Canadiens’ Elmer Lach beating Boston Bruins goalie “Sugar” Jim Henry at 1:22 of extra time; Montreal’s Gerry McNeil won that goaltending duel, the shots unofficially 26-21 for the home-ice winners.
The second extra period of Game 4 in 1996 saw Roy turn aside a career-high overtime-period 18 shots.
“I remember ‘Beezer’ making save after save after save and at the other end I’m thinking, ‘Beezer, let one in then we can all go home,’ ” Roy said, laughing. “He was so good. Wow, he was stopping one Grade-A chance after another. I was lucky to play on such a talented team and a group that was so hungry to win the Stanley Cup. It was a fun ride.”David Stubbs
It was Roy’s third of four Stanley Cup victories, having won in 1986 and 1993 with the Montreal Canadiens, with 2001 still to come with Colorado. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason’s most valuable player twice with the Canadiens and in 2001 with the Avalanche.
The three-time Vezina Trophy winner voted the best goalie in the NHL, ranks all four of his championships on a par, saying simply that each was different. His goaltending was incredibly consistent in his championship runs; respectively, his save percentage in 1986, 1993, 1996, and 2001 was .923, .929, .921, and .934. Roy went 63-22 those four years, with a 1.96 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage, and eight shutouts.
His first Cup win stands out “because it was a bit of the unknown. I was going there as a rookie, supported by veterans like Bob and Larry,” he said of captain Bob Gainey and towering defenseman Larry Robinson. “They were such great leaders, helping me.”
The Canadiens’ 24th and most recent championship in 1993 saw Montreal lose its first two playoff games to the Quebec Nordiques, then go on a 16-2 charge, winning ten consecutive overtime games.
Roy was down on himself after a horrible 1-7-0 finish in his last eight regular-season games, losing five straight to end the schedule. Opening the playoffs with two road losses to provincial archrival Quebec did nothing to lift his spirits. Then, coach Jacques Demers called his star goalie into his Forum office.
“Jacques said, ‘Listen, I’m going to live or die with you, so make a decision what you want to do,’ ” Roy recalled. “Man, I was going into Game 3 ready to play the best I could and give Jacques everything I had. It gave me such confidence, the trust he placed in me. You want to play for a coach like that.”David Stubbs
The Canadiens eliminated the Nordiques with four straight wins, then swept the Buffalo Sabres and knocked off the New York Islanders in five before defeating the Los Angeles Kings in a five-game Final.
“Winning 10 overtime games in a row, when you think about it, that’s ridiculous,” Roy said. “The mindset we had going into OT was one of so much confidence. It was always a different guy scoring the big goal for us.”David Stubbs
The 2001 championship was all about defenseman Ray Bourque, who had arrived in Colorado by trade on March 6, 2000, after 21 seasons with the Boston Bruins, still seeking his first Stanley Cup. Roy and his teammates moved mountains to make that happen.
“We were so committed to seeing Ray win a Stanley Cup,” he said. “We rallied behind him. It was our main goal.”David Stubbs
Roy was leaving for Sherbrooke, Quebec, on Friday to take part in Saturday’s 14-round QMJHL draft, saying his role as Quebec’s general manager beyond this season is yet to be determined.
He was still hailing his Remparts players four days after their Memorial Cup win, fatigued from the whirlwind that awaited the team upon its return from the tournament in Kamloops, British Columbia.
“Honest to God, I haven’t really celebrated,” Roy said. “I’ve enjoyed everything but I’m a bit tired. I’m just trying to enjoy my sleep.David Stubbs
“The part I enjoyed the most was watching our young guys and the commitment they made to succeed. This group was very special in that they were so committed and so resilient. It was a treat to watch them play, to make all those sacrifices to succeed. They were on a mission.”David Stubbs
Even with his focus on the Memorial Cup, Roy has been tuned to the Stanley Cup Final, enjoying every minute of the series between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Panthers.
“I’ve always loved watching games from a coaching perspective,” he said. “I’m always curious to see what coaches are trying to do strategy- and system-wise and with line matchups. There are tons of good coaches out there and I love to learn. That’s the fun part of it — getting better and learning from others.David Stubbs
“A person I know very well one day said to me, ‘Hockey is not your passion, hockey is your life,’ and that’s pretty much right. It would be an honor for me if I have a chance to be back in the NHL.”David Stubbs