Relationships are a funny thing. They are inherently complex in that many years of loyalty and dedication can quickly be forgotten in the event that one party breaks the trust of the other. Unpleasantries can ensue and, if cooler heads are not allowed to prevail, the relationship can cease to exist. Just ask Patrick Roy. Such was his relationship with the storied Montreal Canadiens.
Patrick Jacques Roy began his professional hockey career in 1984 with “Le Club de Hockey,” the Montreal Canadiens. By April of ’86 he had earned himself the starting goaltending position en route to leading the Habs to a surprise Stanley Cup Championship that same year. The legend of “St. Patrick” was born.
While not always conventional – talking to his posts, jumping over blue lines and honing his “butterfly” style of goaltending – Roy served as the most stable netminder to play between the pipes in Montreal since the days of Ken Dryden, Gump Worsley or Jacques Plante. He would lead the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup victory again in 1993, claiming his second Conn Smythe Trophy along the way.
However, on December 2, 1995, things turned sour. In a game that most Montreal fans would care to forget, Roy was unceremoniously kept in the net despite allowing an earth-shattering nine goals on 26 shots. When finally pulled, Roy, in a moment of anger and frustration, told team president Ronald Corey: “It’s my last game in Montreal.”
Quickly, shockingly and without a chance to say goodbye, Patrick Roy was no longer a Montreal Canadien. After 11 years of service and excellence, the relationship was completely severed in the blink of an eye. “Le Trade” as it came to be known, sent Montreal’s St. Patrick to Colorado, leaving a very bad taste in the mouths of many.
Roy would go on to display the same artistic mastery in goal for the Colorado Avalanche, guiding them to Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001, capturing a record third Conn Smythe Trophy in the process. He would also go on to become the winningest goaltender in NHL history. And while things were great in Denver, back in Quebec, the fans felt bitterly betrayed. But so did Patrick. He had dedicated so much excellence to “Le Tricolore,” but they shunned him aside as if it had all meant nothing.
They do say though that time heals all wounds. Like the friend who stole your girlfriend in high school, the time had come to let bygones be bygones – it was finally time to forgive and forget. On November 22nd, 2008 – almost 13 years after Roy’s unceremonious exit from Montreal – he was welcomed back with open arms in a ceremony that saw his trademark #33 raised to the rafters of the Montreal Bell Centre.
Coming out of the concession gate as if he were just an ordinary fan, Roy strolled down the aisle proudly donning the jersey that began the legend of St. Patrick over two decades ago. The red, white, and blue “CH” on his chest seemed as though it had been there all along – it was the jersey Patrick Roy was born to wear. While his time spent with the club was shorter than many anticipated, it was evident in that moment that Montreal was where he belonged. He spoke from the heart, reminiscing with the fans about the days where they “shook Montreal” with cheers and triumph. More importantly, Roy spoke about finally “coming home.”
Standing beside 20-year-old Carey Price – who has been touted as Montreal’s “Next Patrick Roy”, which is no doubt saying something about the kid – Roy watched his #33 ascend to the rafters above. Way back when, everyone knew this day would come – they just didn’t know it would come after a seven-year stopover in Colorado.
After all was said and done, Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens were fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to make things right and allow Roy a chance to properly say goodbye. It was an emotional moment that touched the hearts of many who love the game of hockey. After 13 years of silence, Patrick Roy had finally come home.