Patrick Roy, the legendary goalie for the Canadiens from 1984 to 1995, has returned to Montreal to take on the franchise he backstopped to two Stanley Cups before it famously traded him after a humiliating incident that made him angrily tell Habs president Ronald Corey that he would never play for the Habs again.
Tonight marks the first time that Roy has visited Montreal's arena as an enemy coach, but according to him, he reconciled with the Canadiens when his No. 33 was raised to the rafters of the Molson Centre (since renamed the Bell Centre) in 2008. Roy dramatically attended that ceremony and was warmly welcomed.
"It was nice to see that the past was way behind us and everybody moved on and they saw me as their next coach or GM," Roy told media in Montreal on Monday about rumors in 2012 of him coming back to the Canadiens in a GM or coaching role. "That was, for the ego, I have to admit, it feels good." However, the Habs instead hired Marc Bergevin as their GM and Michel Therrien as their bench boss, though Roy insisted at the time he wasn't bitter. That clearly wasn't the case when he left.
His ugly departure was referred to as "Le Trade" and it was a pivotal moment for Montreal as well Colorado's franchise. Roy asked out after he was left in net by coach Mario Tremblay while being strafed for nine goals by the Detroit Red Wings in front of a home crowd that began to jeer. Roy offered a mock salute to the fans, and four days after telling Corey that he was done in Montreal, he began his career with Colorado, sent to the Avs with Mike Keane for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko.
With Colorado, Roy won two Stanley Cups, matching his total in Montreal. (The Canadiens have not won one since he left.) During his 18-year career in the NHL, he earned three Conn Smythe trophies (1986, 1993, 2001), five Jennings (1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, 2002), and three Vezinas (1989, 1990, 1992), and was an 11-time All-Star. He also held the NHL's all-time career mark for victories by a goaltender (551) until it was broken by Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils in March 2009. The Avalanche retired Roy's number in 2003, five years before the Canadiens did.
"Having the opportunity to see my jersey retired [by the Canadiens] meant a lot to me," Roy said. "I mentioned it many, many times. A kid from the providence of Quebec, playing for that organization, it means a lot for any of us."
Hired as Colorado's coach in May of last year, he's been widely credited with turning the team around by instilling plenty of his trademark fire after it missed the playoffs three seasons in a row. Roy's Avs are now fighting for the top spot in the Central Division with a 44-19-5 record and a one-point lead over defending Cup champion Chicago. And while much of the media attention will be on him tonight, Roy wants it on his team's continued success.
"I try to just focus on coming here and seeing our players play a good game," he said. "It's not about me. It's about them." NIESEN: Avs super rookie MacKinnon trying to dodge spotlight