Jonathan Roy Q&A: The fight, the father, the hit song

On December 2, 1995, Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy was pulled from a game against Detroit after allowing 9 goals on 26 shots. It was that catalyst that saw the legendary goalie get traded from Montreal.

The wise veteran of the Canadian music industry had never had a meeting like it.

Holed up in a small Toronto hotel conference room with a few other well-tuned ears, Corey Hart had someone special to show Steve Waxman, Warner Music’s national publicity director.

So when the son of one of the greatest goaltenders of all time opened his mouth to sing, Waxman pulls out an expletive to describe the impact of Jonathan’s Roy’s volume.

“Holy —-. His voice was too loud for the room,” Waxman says. “Just so powerful.”

The kid who traded in his blocker for a microphone, his trapper for a guitar, had the right look, the rich voice, and a surname that could pique curiosity. What he needed was clear direction and a kick-starting song.

Instant criticism was requested and delivered right to Roy’s face—a practice unheard of in the real music industry, the one you don’t see on reality shows. But Roy could take it.

After some artistic development in music’s AHL and a catchy single that literally sprung from a Corey Hart dream, however, Jonathan Roy has himself a radio hit.

As he sips a pint of “something amber” between dates on his Canadian acoustic tour, the 26-year-old protégé of Corey Hart talks to us about Ray Bourque’s tears, the support of his father, and the game he left behind so he could chase his dream.

“I have a stronger feeling on stage because I love music a lot more than I love hockey,” says Jonathan Roy. “I want to get to No. 1. It’s gonna be tough to beat Adele, but I’m going to give it everything I got, man.”

Never surrender.

SPORTSNET.CA: So… Corey Hart. How does that even happen? Did you listen to him as a kid?
JONATHAN ROY: No, I didn’t. I knew the song “Sunglasses at Night.” But being a musician—and this is my world now—I have to know about Canadian music. It’s important. I didn’t know much about Corey; just people telling me he was a great writer. I was looking for someone to work with, someone to help me go in the right direction. I was a little lost. I was with a music label in Quebec, and they didn’t really have a plan for me. I wanted to go somewhere. I want to be an Ed Sheeran. Even though I’m far from it, that’s my dream. I was doing a musical, Don Juan, in Montreal. They put me in contact with Corey Hart. I asked my dad to write a message to Corey.

Patrick Roy and Corey Hart know each other?
My dad had just won the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens, and they met in ’86 or ’87. My dad actually gave Corey a hockey stick. Later when I met Corey in the Bahamas, he showed me the stick—still has it. Pretty cool. My dad and I each wrote a message to Corey. My dad wanted to know: Does he have what it takes? Is my son wasting his time? He’s 21 years old. I want him to have a life.

At 18, I told my dad I wanted to do music, and he looked at me like, “Are you nuts? You want to do music?” I just kept at it, and my dad never said a thing. I was 21 doing that musical and I asked him to reach out to Corey. That was the time to really know the truth. “Corey, be honest with me: Does my son have it?” Corey wrote back, saying, “Come on down to Nassau, learn these three songs.” I learned a Teddy Thompson song, a song [Hart] wrote called “She’s So Good,” and one of my original songs, “Walk with that Man.” I go to Nassau and connected with him right away. Our energy fit. We have the same mind-set: passionate and intense. It worked. Played him three songs. The first was the Teddy Thompson one. Soon as I started singing, he got up and started pacing. I’m thinking, “Oh, man. He thinks it’s bad.” After the song finished, he started clapping and said, “Welcome to Siena Records.”

Roy’s live acoustic cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”

Take me back to when you were 18 and you told your dad you wanted to do music, not hockey.
My last year of junior, I was 19 and had a good year. At 18 I really struggled in net. I wasn’t solid [3-6-4, .872 save percentage], and my dad told me it wasn’t going to work out if I didn’t have a good start in my 19th year. He was going to let me go. I’d be off the team. When he told me he wanted me to go back to school, I was actually relieved. I’d always wanted to do music. I just didn’t know how to bring it up. I was 11 when my mom bought me the piano and the guitars and the drums, but I never got into it. I wanted to stay with dad. I was always going to the rink. Hockey was something I loved, but when I got home I was listening to music. I was dancing around and drumming away to the Backstreet Boys. [laughs] That was my band. I started listening to John Mayer and Ray LaMontagne. The singer-songwriter stuff got me passionate about it. Music was a way to express myself. So I started writing in this journal.

“Intensity. In the moment. You know how hockey is,” says Jonathan Roy. “I wasn’t a role model that night.”

Was there overt pressure from your dad to play hockey, or was it under the surface?
My dad never pushed me into anything. Both my parents do what they love and want their kids to live their passions. My dad has always given me the opportunity to do what I love. Yeah, it was tough to get his full support, but I had to prove it to him. It wasn’t just, “Hey, Dad, I want to do music.” I had to put the time and effort in. That’s what I’m doing today—giving it everything I got. That “Roy” thing, that be a warrior, it’s in me. I had it in hockey, and I have it in music.

What kind of music did your parents play around house?
They listened to French music. I wasn’t a fan. Beau Dommage. It wasn’t my era at all. A lot of Quebecers love it. Patty listened to the old stuff. My dad never went to shows, and a couple years ago he went to see Roger Hudson and said, “This is so awesome. I gotta go see shows more often.” He went and saw Lionel Richie. My mom played piano in the house all the time. I remember as kid having a shower, getting my pajamas on and going downstairs to listen to my mom play. I took piano lessons as kid, but I was lazy. My focus was on hockey. I kinda regret not getting better at piano.

What did Patrick say when he heard the new single, “Daniella Denmark”?
He sees the evolution. He’s not a big music guy. When I was playing my older stuff, he’s like, “Oh, great, Johnny.” Just being a [supportive] dad. Now he’s saying, “This is really good. People are going to like this.” He loves the tune. My dad is more into older music. Now he loves Taylor Swift. [laughs] He’s starting to get into the new stuff.

And you co-wrote “Daniella” with Corey?
Corey wrote that by himself. We wrote about 50 or 60 songs. In March, I get home from a horrible date—just a shitty date—and I decide to write Corey this message about love and how I couldn’t find the right girl. He wrote me back, saying, “Dude. You’re 26. You have a bunch of time. Settle down. It’ll come. You gotta focus on the music.” Then he had this dream of me in Denmark. I’m onstage. Corey is on the right side of the stage. And this girl comes up to him and says, “I’m Daniella. I’m going to be Jonathan’s soul mate”—while she’s watching me sing this melody. So Corey wakes up and remembers the melody I’m singing. He grabs the melody from the dream, throws down some lyrics, and the song became “Daniella Denmark.”

Describe your relationship with hockey today.
I try to watch the Avs as close as I can. It’ll always be a passion for me. Music is my main focus, so I don’t have much time.

Ever play shinny these days?
When my dad was coaching the Remparts, we played on the same line in summer beer leagues. It was awesome. He was my centreman. Slowest skater on the ice. But the guy can see the ice, man. Such a good head for hockey. He sees everything. You know what? He has the same intensity in beer leagues as he has in the NHL. We’re on the bench, and he’s like: “Pass me the puck! Why don’t you pass me the puck?!” Good times.

In his first year as Avalanche coach when he nearly went through the glass to get a Bruce Boudreau, what did you think?
I was there that night. He’s competitive. He’s intense. In the heat of the moment, everyone in the arena was going nuts. I really think that moment in time, that game, made the season for the Avalanche. That kick-started them, this emotional thing. People were fed up with losing in Colorado, and Patty doesn’t want Colorado to be losing. He wants to win. That intensity shook the whole building, and that was a very exciting year for the Avs. I got to go to Vegas and see him win the Jack Adams. Hopefully he’ll get to come to the Juno Awards and see me win a trophy.

How did he react that night, winning a major award as a coach versus as a player?
Different. For him, he did what he had to do in his life. This is the cherry on top of the milkshake. This is his second passion. He loves the sport so much. I remember at the Awards, we were having a beer and he said to me, “This is crazy. I had 15 beautiful NHL seasons. I won the Stanley Cup four times. I just won the Jack Adams. I’m just a kid from Sainte-Foy Gouverneurs who was playing hockey, and I made it.” He tells me, “If that can happen to me, Jo, that can happen to you as a musician. Just go out and enjoy it. Do like me: give it all you got, and eventually something will happen. Keep believing. Don’t let anybody take you down. Keep riding it through the ups and downs.” It’s something Patty thinks about all the time. My dad’s actually a humble person. He might come off cocky in the environment of hockey, but as a human being, he taught me humility. Always remember where you come from.

What’s it like to be coached by a famous NHLer who also happens to be your father?
I even got to play with my little brother [Frederick], so that was really cool. Patty was a hard coach, especially on my brother and I. He made examples of us. He wanted his players to know, “Just because this is my son doesn’t mean he’ll be [favoured].” He was a good coach, and he’s even better now.

Wait. Do you call him “Patty” to his face?
Yeah. Depends. Serious, it’s Patrick and he calls me Jonathan. On the golf course, it’s, “Hey, Patty, your ball’s right here.” Then when we get on an emotional level, it’s Dad. “Dad, I love you.”

What are your fondest hockey memories?
On Saturdays I would go to morning skate with my dad. Practices were cut short 30 minutes, and I’d go out there and pass pucks with Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic. I was a player then. Sometimes I’d put the pads on, and Rob Blake would shoot on me. I thought they were crazy shots but they were little wrist shots from the blue line. Being in the locker room and stuff, it was special.

But 2001 I’ll never forget. Ray Bourque is a good friend of my dad’s. When Ray was traded from Boston to Colorado, they had always wanted to play together. I was in New Jersey, it was the third period, and we were winning 4-2 or something. I was down in a little hall, had the Stanley Cup championship shirt on. Everyone was going nuts. I knew it was going to be Ray Bourque’s first Cup, and I thought it was probably my dad’s last year. I didn’t know how many more he was going to do. I remember Mark, the stick guy, said, “Wait. You guys are going on the ice.” I’m like, “We’re going on the ice! No way!”

The guys are all celebrating, and as soon as the Stanley Cup was brought on the ice, I went on and jumped into my dad’s arms and saw Ray. Ray was crying, and I was with Ray Bourque’s kids. I started crying like a little baby. It was surreal. It was this really beautiful moment, and I just couldn’t stop crying. Check it on the Internet [or watch below]. You see Ray grab the Cup, and I’m there bawling my eyes out. My little brother who’s two years younger is laughing at me while Ray is raising the Cup. For me, I saw what it did to a man who’s worked his ass off and being at the top of his game for however many years and finally getting that trophy since they’ve been fighting for since they were yay high. That was ray Bourque. It was overwhelming for me. Really beautiful.

Which teammate of your dad’s was best with the other guys’ kids?
Adam Foote and my dad were roommates, and they were really close. Adam taught English to Patty. Adam Foote I really enjoyed, and Ray Bourque. I was close with his kids, Ryan and Chris, back in the day.

When people hear your name in a hockey context, they think of you fighting Bobby Nadeau in 2008 and getting charged with assault. What do you make of that night in retrospect?
Things happen in your life that you’re not proud of. You have to make the best of it. Learn from that mistake. Make yourself a better person. I can’t go back with shouldas. I can’t. After that night it was, What am I going to do to make it right? In the organization of the Quebec Remparts, there were a lot of kids that looked up to us players. I tell you what: I wasn’t proud of what happened. I want to be a role model for kids, and that wasn’t the Jonathan Roy I know. I wasn’t a role model that night. It was a tough night. Intensity. In the moment. You know how hockey is. That particular event helped change hockey. There’s more rules now, more sanctions. It’s brought the game towards talent and away from toughness. It’s a very physical game now, but the aspect of fighting is no longer important. It’s rare you see fights now. Back then you had people swinging sticks at heads. It was nuts. Now it’s a classy game, a game of agility and strength. It’s a much better game.

Jonathan Roy fights Bobby Nadeau (March 2008)

Is there anything about hockey you miss?
I’ll have it eventually. I love going on the road with teammates, having that love you create on the ice and carry off it. That I-got-your-back. Those are strong bonds, going to war with people. Once I go on tour with my band, I know I’ll feel that same thing. I’ll bring that energy for sure. Right now I’m on the road alone [doing an acoustic tour], so I’m by myself in the hotels and don’t have people to talk to.


Has your dad’s fame helped or hurt your music career?
Both. People might be quick to judge. Some might think, “Oh, this is some kid who has Daddy’s money and is going to do music.” But the truth is, I’m a regular kid. My dad had an amazing job, and I’m trying to do what I love. Just because my dad is “Roy” isn’t going to change that. I think “Roy” does open doors quicker, but, man, I gotta sing. I have to grab people. I gotta do the work.

Is the feeling you get from a good concert at all comparable to a good night at the rink?
When I’m onstage, it’s like being in net having 15,000 people there. It’s what I loved most. Music is creation. It’s art. Hockey, you make 90 points, you’re a good player. It’s stats-based. Even if you’re the best singer in the world, you might not make it. It’s about what kind of people you can grab. What kind of fans are you going to get? You have no idea if what you’re doing will work. For me, it’s a lot stronger. I really enjoy seeing smiles on stage or seeing people mimicking the lyrics.

So, what fans are you gonna get?
My main goal as a singer-songwriter is to put food on the table, to have my own little thing, and to do it for the rest of my life. I want to be the Ed Sheeran, the Taylor Swift. I want to be at the top of the game, so I will do everything in my power to reach it. But if I have a beautiful career doing my music and I’m happy, then I’ll stay with that.

Corey Hart & Jonathan Roy – “Feel Like Going Home”

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