DENVER – Patrick Roy carefully contemplated the Colorado Avalanche’s sales pitch as he sank putts on a golf course in Florida.
New team President Josh Kroenke was in his group, along with former teammate-turned-executive Joe Sakic, and they were teeing up an opportunity Roy simply couldn’t turn down. Not again.
Four years ago, the team asked him to come on board as coach. The Hall of Fame goalie just wasn’t ready.
This time around, the deal was sweetened—a chance to coach and have a say in hockey-related decisions.
He couldn’t pass up this chance, agreeing last week to a four-year deal with a mutual option for a fifth season.
“I was afraid in 2009, that maybe I missed one of best opportunities of my life,” Roy said at his introductory news conference Tuesday. “Here I am in 2013, same opportunity. I truly feel that sometimes, the biggest mistake we’re making as a coach is you want to go too fast.”
The fiery goaltender has mellowed since his retirement a decade ago. Well, as much as he can anyway.
Roy has been serving as coach and general manager for the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League over the last eight seasons, which he feels has prepared him for taking over as a first-year NHL coach. But there’s this hanging over his head: The stigma that great players don’t make great coaches.
“I’m not nervous about that,” said Roy, who won the Memorial Cup title with the Remparts in 2006 and finished with a 348-196 mark. “To be honest with you, I checked one interesting stat: 100 per cent of the coaches who are coaching now in the NHL were rookies at one time in their careers.
“My No. 1 quality is that I’m not afraid to put in the time.”
He has plenty of help, too, as the 47-year-old Roy joins forces with Sakic to fix a squad that’s missed the playoffs three straight seasons.
Roy and Sakic worked well on the ice, helping the Avs to Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001, and believe it will carry over to the front office.
“We have different personalities—I’m more laid back and he’s more fiery—but at the end of the day, we’ve always agreed on the same things,” Sakic said. “When it came to hockey, we were always on the same page.”
Roy couldn’t agree more.
“I’m extremely proud Joe and Josh gave me the opportunity to be part of that new era,” said Roy, who wouldn’t reveal the winner of their golf match. “That’s the way I’m looking at it. Joe and I had an opportunity to be part of something really special in the past. I think we’re going to also be part of something very special in the future.
“We might not win the Stanley Cup next year. But we’re going to have a Stanley Cup attitude.”
Some of Roy’s players showed up for the festivities, with captain Gabriel Landeskog, forward Paul Stastny and goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere sitting in the front row.
Growing up, Giguere was a big fan of Roy, pretty much becoming a goalie because of him.
“What I admired most was his winning attitude and self-confidence,” Giguere said. “He could speak up in the papers and back it up the next day. That’s extremely hard to do. He knew he was going to win. He knew he was the best player. That’s something that I always admire of him, something I always try to do somewhat, not to his level but my level.”
There’s an awe factor with Landeskog, too. This was Roy stepping in, one of the winningest goaltenders of all time.
“It’s obviously a little different shaking hands with a Hall of Famer. That doesn’t happen every day,” Landeskog said. “We have to realize he’s here to get our best, here for the team’s best.”
Roy’s inheriting an Avs squad coming off a season in which they finished last in the Western Conference. The gloomy season led to the firing of coach Joe Sacco in late April.
But it’s not all gloom for this franchise—the Avs do possess the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. What’s more, they also boast a youthful core with Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Landeskog all under 23.
Still, there are some that believe Roy was a nostalgic hire by the Avalanche, a chance to bring back a fan favourite from the glory days.
“Fair enough to hear that,” said Roy, who’s won four Stanley Cups, including two with Montreal. “It doesn’t bother me one bit. I don’t want to sound cocky by saying this and I don’t have a crystal ball, but there’s not too many rookie coaches saying they’re coaching after winning four Stanley Cups as a player and a Memorial Cup as a coach.”
See, he’s mellowed.
As a player, the passionate goaltender always stood his ground—even challenging other goalies to fights—and once uttered one of the best quips when Chicago forward Jeremy Roenick said something about him during the 1996 playoffs, only to have Roy retort: “I can’t hear what Jeremy says, because I’ve got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears.”
Roy unintentionally played off that phrase Tuesday, when he was asked about the golf outing/meeting with Sakic and Kroenke a few weeks ago.
“Joe has always been a very loyal hockey player, a loyal person. It’s easy for me to work with Joe,” Roy said. “Josh, as a president, wants stability, wants to see a coach there for a long time. That sounds really good to my ears.”
“I could have my Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears, but they are no longer there,” he said.