MONTREAL – Patrick Roy hopes that by having his jersey retired by the Montreal Canadiens, he will undo some of the bad memories of his last game with the Red, White and Blue.
The Hall of Fame goaltender who led the Canadiens to Stanley Cups in 1986 and 1993 before going on to win two more with the Colorado Avalanche will have his No. 33 jersey retired on Saturday night before a game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre.
It will be the first time he dons the jersey before the Canadiens fans since his nasty split with the team after he was left in goal for a shellacking at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings in 1995.
“We’re finally going to put away that Dec. 2, 1995 game and that’s something – that one game,” Roy said Wednesday on a conference call. “When you get to the NHL, they say to you, ‘one game does not make a career.’
“It’s like that one game pretty much made my career in Montreal, but I feel that’s not the case. I had so many good years and we had so many good teams. I played for great coaches and for great teammates. Nothing would have happened without their support. We had players who had that desire to win. They were special teams.”
It was a stunning development at the time.
Mario Tremblay had taken over from Jacques Demers as head coach five games into the season and there was a feeling of bad blood between the new coach and his star goaltender.
When Roy was finally taken out of that fateful game after allowing nine goals, he stormed off, leaned over to team president Ronald Corey behind the Canadiens bench and told him he’d played his last game for Montreal.
A few days later, he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche along with Mike Keane for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko, a move that heralded a slide into mediocrity that lasted years for the 24-time Stanley Cup champion Canadiens.
The Avs’ general manager at the time was Pierre Lacroix – Roy’s former agent. Yet another controversial move was for Roy to choose Lacroix, who worked for the Canadiens’ bitter rivals, the Quebec Nordiques who later became the Avalanche, to introduce him at the on-ice jersey retirement ceremony.
But Roy insists bygones are bygones, although he admits the 1995 dispute stemmed in part from his battling nature.
“You always have some regrets,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect.
“But when you love to compete – and that’s the way I was – there was a good side of it and a bad side. But I don’t think I would have had the career I had if I was not that type of person. The good thing about what’s going to happen is that we’re going to talk more about those years like ’86 or ’89 or ’93. We had some great runs in Montreal.”
Roy led the Canadiens to a surprise Cup as a youngster in 1986, and took them to the Cup final in 1989, when they lost in six games to Calgary.
Perhaps the crowning achievement of his career came in 1993, when the Canadiens won 10 consecutive overtime games to win their last Cup.
Roy retired with Colorado in 2003 after a 19-year career in which he had a record 551 wins in 1,029 games. He also ranks first in playoff games with 247, victories with 151 and shutouts with 23. He won three Vezina trophies as the league’s top goaltender and three times won the Conn Smythe as MVP of the playoffs.
He has since become part-owner and head coach of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, winning a Memorial Cup in 2006. He said that job, rather than any lingering ill-will toward the Canadiens, is what has kept him from participating in events at the Bell Centre in recent years
He will become the 15th Canadiens player to have his jersey retired and the seventh in the past three years leading into the club’s 100th anniversary.
“You have no control on whether your jersey will be retired, but I certainly hoped it would happen one day,” he said. “I knew they had a lot of guys to do before me.
“The Canadiens hadn’t done that for a long time and I felt that (players like) (Serge) Savard, (Larry) Robinson, (Bob) Gainey and (Ken) Dryden were a big part of the history of the Canadiens and they deserved it. It’s a great honour for me to join them and see my jersey retired. It means a lot to me.”