BOSTON — Patrick Roy should have been a Boston Bruin.
If ever an NHL player (and coach) represented what this franchise and its fanbase adores, it was Roy, a four-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Famer.
Of course, some people might have a problem with Roy ever wearing the spoked “B.” To many New Englanders, Roy will always be a dreaded Montreal Canadien ... yuk!
Roy, sitting in the visitors’ locker room at Boston University after his “undefeated” Colorado Avalanche team practiced yesterday, laughed when the “Roy should have been a Bruin” was thrown into the discussion.
He started laughing.
“You know, I really liked coming to play in Boston,” recalled Roy, who spent 11 1/2 seasons with the Canadiens and 7 1/2 more with the Avalanche. “The fans were tough, but I liked them. They really cared. They liked physical hockey. And the Bruins were always a very good team. When I played for Montreal there was nothing like playing the Bruins. It was like every game was a playoff game.”
Well, three games into his career as head coach of the Avs, you could say the same thing.
Roy, always noted for his skill, athleticism and energy, has brought the energy to his coaching. While we’ve heard and seen a few instances of his emotional moments coaching in juniors, it took only one game as an NHL head coach to bring a playoff atmosphere to the first of 82 games.
Near the end of the Avs opener against the Anaheim Ducks last week, Roy and Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau went at each other, pushing the glass partition between them (Roy was really the only one pushing the glass).
Roy went ballistic after Anaheim’s Ben Lovejoy apparently stuck out his knee and hit the knee of Colorado’s first round pick Nathan MacKinnon. A penalty was called, probably because of the score, but that didn’t stop Roy.
“That was about respect,” said Roy, immediately becoming serious. “We’re up 6-1 and they take a run at our first round pick ... But honestly, it could be anybody on our team. You don’t do that. I thought it was important our team see I am going to stick up for them.”
Well, after not making the playoff four out of the five seasons, something is apparently resonating with the Avs, who have outscored the Ducks, Predators and Leafs 11-3.
Roy’s affinity for Boston goes beyond the fans and the city, he also likes what he sees on the ice.
“I honestly believe things changed once they signed (Zdeno) Chara,” said Roy. “The direction (of the team) changed for the better. He’s the best. And now, they have so many good players, like Patrice Bergeron, who is one of my favorite players. He plays the defensive end as well as the offensive end. They have the goaltending. They have the toughness ... But what I like the most is they are humble. They bring passion to the rink every night.”
There is more love coming Boston’s way, in the name of coach Claude Julien.
A few years ago when Roy was coaching his junior team — Quebec Ramparts — he contacted Julien about his forechecking schemes.
“Claude is an amazing coach,” said Roy. “I loved the way his teams forechecked, even going back to Montreal and New Jersey. We talked and he was very nice to offer suggestions. He was amazing. I copied what he did because it worked.”
The other Boston-related love affair Roy has is with his former teammate in Colorado, Ray Bourque.
Bourque, you probably remember, left the Bruins and played 1 1/2 seasons with the Avs and Roy.
“He is one of the greatest defensemen ever to play the game,” said Roy. “I learned so much from playing with him. He was an amazing player. He’s one of my best friend. He comes up to (Quebec) play golf in the summer. I will be having dinner with him tonight.”
Roy says he has a lot to learn as coach of the Avs and despite the early successes, he is preparing for the tough times, too.
“The key is having fun,” said Roy. “In the end, this is still a game. If we all remember that, we will be better for it.”
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know ... Patrick Roy played in last event ever at old Garden. The final game at the Boston Garden was a preseason game between the Bruins and Canadiens on September 26, 1995. In a special post-game ceremony, which included many former Bruins greats, the banners and retired numbers were removed. The Garden sat vacant for almost two years before it was demolished in 1997. Roy won two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens and two more with Avalanche. Roy was 32-19-5 against the Bruins in the regular season, but his Canadiens won only three of eight series against the Bruins, with the B's taking the last four against Roy and the Habs. Roy's best quote came during the 1996 Western Conference semis against the Blackhawks, when Jeremy Roenick thought a penalty shot should have been called on a breakaway, saying he would have scored on Roy. The argument went on for a day but ended when Roy said: "I can't really hear what Jeremy says, because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears."