During a lifetime in hockey, Patrick Roy has held numerous positions, including all-star netminder, quadruple Stanley Cup champion, NHL executive and head coach.
One of his lesser known jobs was as head coach of his son Frederick’s minor hockey spring league team about 14 years ago. In a tournament at Trois Rivieres, Que., at just about this time of year, Roy’s team came up against an Ottawa squad that included my oldest son.
Roy was on his best behaviour. Though his mere presence behind the bench was palpable, there were no signs of a soaring personal mercury, no baiting referees, or taunting a rival such that he couldn’t hear him because Patrick’s “two Stanley Cup rings were plugged in my ears.” (That 1996 Roy line to Jeremy Roenick remains one of hockey’s all-time great quotes).
Between games, Roy was gracious to the fans who occasionally approached him for an autograph. My youngest son, six or seven at the time, had no paper or hockey card to autograph, so Patrick casually signed his ski jacket.
My wife, a marginal hockey fan at best but a budding celebrity watcher, stood alongside my son while he got Roy’s autograph.
“I hear you used to be a hockey player,” my wife blurted out, while her husband of some years on the hockey beat crawled into a proverbial hole.
Now, she had Patrick’s attention, those steely eyes boring down on her.
“Madame,” said Patrick Roy, “I was a GOALTENDER!”
My embarrassment complete, by this point you couldn’t find me with a search party from the Sûreté du Québec.
Actually, Roy was being modest in his indignation. This mere “goaltender” was on the verge of being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (2006) as arguably the greatest goalie of all-time and a man who revolutionized the position. Roy won two Cups with Montreal, including the last Canadiens championship in 1993, and then two more in Colorado.
Moreover, Roy made the position sexy for young kids who desperately wanted to emulate ‘Saint Patrick,’ and his butterfly style became an enduring goaltending practice. One could make the case, and Sportsnet’s Brian Burke did on the weekend, we should blame (or credit) Roy for this era of goaltending dominance in the game.
Make it seven. There goes general manager Pierre Dorion’s one day of rest.
Patrick Roy? Really?
The initial reaction online featured myriad gifs of car tires or dumpsters burning, symbolizing the combustion expected when the mercurial Roy inevitably clashes with Ottawa’s meddling owner, Eugene Melnyk.
The reaction by some in the media was to salivate, begging that Roy get the job, to satisfy some sort of morbid curiosity or twisted delight at the possibilities.
If nothing else, Roy’s presence would keep things interesting, with the ripe possibility of yet another circus around an organization that has led the league in dysfunction the last two years.
Roy does have a history of working with young talent, which the Senators will have in spades during this rebuild. In 2013-14, Roy led the rebuilding Colorado Avalanche to a record of 52-22-8 (112 points), which earned him the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year. The Avs lost out in the first playoff round, in seven games to Minnesota. In two subsequent seasons behind the Avs bench, Roy’s demands on his players were not met – Colorado missed the playoffs in both years.
How successful Roy was in developing the Avs’ talent is debatable. Matt Duchene, ex Av and Sen, clearly couldn’t stand Roy, who once publicly ripped his young star for celebrating his 30th goal of the season in a losing cause. Nathan MacKinnon won a Calder Trophy under Roy in 2013-14, but then stalled, becoming a superstar only after Roy left. MacKinnon will say he had personal growing to do and blossomed by coming to terms with his own capabilities.
When he resigned from Colorado in 2016, Roy admitted he was not big on hockey analytics, an area of the game that has since exploded.
Roy has an even longer history of coaching at the junior level, as recently as this past season.
Clearly he likes his own way, clashing with former Avs legend Joe Sakic before the two parted ways. Roy was vice-president of hockey operations and head coach at the time, and Sakic the GM.
It begs the question of whether Dorion would want to have working for him a man who seeks control. Roy has been a junior team owner and lost a power struggle with Sakic. From Roy’s point of view, he would want assurances of some level of autonomy in Melnyk’s organization.
Roy has had his explosions and will again. In 2008, he was suspended five games and his then-goaltender son, Jonathan, for seven games for their roles in a brawl on the ice during a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game. Roy was seen gesturing to his son to get up ice and take part in a fight, pummelling his counterpart with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens for no reason other than to be part of the melee.
As coach of the Quebec Remparts, Roy has had altercations with team rivals, including a run-in with a Chicoutimi co-owner who filed an assault complaint against Roy (later rescinded). In 2000, Roy was arrested on a charge of domestic violence after ripping up his house, but was cleared of the charge by a presiding judge. Roy and Michele Piuze were divorced in 2003.
In the NHL, Roy has displayed temper as a player and a coach, demanding his way out of Montreal after a famous stare at Canadiens owner Ronald Corey. As a coach, he nearly came to blows with Bruce Boudreau, punctuating a yelling match by shoving the glass that separated them.
Now 53, there is a chance Roy has matured to an extent that tantrums wouldn’t be a regular feature if he got the Ottawa job. Consider how mellow the interim head coach, Marc Crawford, is today compared to his younger self, in Colorado or Vancouver. Coaches do grow, and grow up.
One could imagine a situation where the two former Avalanche coaches work together on Ottawa’s staff. They seem to respect each other.
The six coaching candidates already interviewed include Crawford, Troy Mann, Jacques Martin, D.J. Smith, Rick Bowness and Nate Leaman.
Interestingly, Bowness, Martin and Crawford have all served as Senators head coaches in the past. Bowness and Martin also have outstanding track records as NHL assistants. Mann, Smith and Leaman are seeking their first NHL head coaching gigs.
As for Roy, after leaving the Avs, he returned to his roots, and a second stint as head coach of the Remparts. Roy had a tremendous run with them from 2005-13, never posting less than a .571 winning record. His teams made the playoffs every season, with one trip to the league final.
This past season, after relinquishing ownership of the team, Roy had a losing season as head coach.
Of the seven Ottawa candidates, Roy would create the most buzz, including in the Francophone market of Gatineau, but coaches don’t tend to sell tickets. Winning does. That won’t come easily for a team that finished 31st last season. Would Roy be satisfied in developing players for the benefit of some other coach down the road?
Dorion will have to look past the hype in selecting the best candidate to develop Ottawa’s cache of young talent, with more on the horizon in upcoming entry drafts.