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Head of the Class

by Staff Writer / Colorado Avalanche

Story by Kevin Shea

"The Hockey Hall of Fame is proud to welcome these four outstanding individuals as Honored Members," began Jim Gregory, Chairman of the Hall of Fame's Selection Committee. "Their contributions to the game of hockey are well documented and their election to the Hockey Hall of Fame is richly deserved."

So began an odyssey that led to induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame for Harley Hotchkiss, one of the owners of the Calgary Flames, the late Herb Brooks, architect of Team USA's ‘Miracle on Ice' in 1980, six-time Stanley Cup champion Dick Duff and arguably the greatest goaltender in the history of the National Hockey League, Patrick Roy.

Roy's accomplishments are, simply, extraordinary. Joining the Montreal Canadiens full-time in 1985-86, Patrick's goaltending style was unorthodox. "I was going butterfly and diving for every puck," Patrick chuckled. "(Coach Jacques) Lemaire told me I needed a mattress and a pillow! But I was a believer in the butterfly. The most space you cover is when you are on your knees, and most of the goals scored in the NHL were shots low to the ice." But Patrick never dreamed of being in the Hall of Fame. "When I first started in the NHL, all I wanted to do was survive," he grinned.

Survive he did, and Roy used the butterfly with the Canadiens to win both the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) as a rookie in 1986, both again in 1993, three Vezina Trophy selections as the NHL's best netminder (1989, 1990, 1992), four Jennings Trophy wins for the league's best goals against average (1987, 1988, 1989, 1992) and five selections to the NHL All-Star Team.

Into his eleventh season with the Canadiens, on December 2, 1995, Roy fumed as the Detroit Red Wings fired nine goals past him. Mercifully pulled, Patrick glared as he brushed past coach Mario Tremblay, who had been his first NHL roommate, and announced to team president Ronald Corey that he had played his final game as a Montreal Canadien. Four days later, Patrick was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche, along with teammate and neighbor Mike Keane. "I think Montreal did me a favor, allowing me to go to a team that I felt could win the Stanley Cup," admitted Roy. "They knew what I wanted."

Six months later, he got it: another Stanley Cup championship.

"I would have liked to leave Montreal under different circumstances," he shrugged. "I turned the page on the Canadiens a long time ago. But now, looking back, I know I had great years with the Canadiens. I think we brought joy to Habs' fans and even probably surprised them somewhat with the two Cups we won. That's what I want people in Montreal to remember."

Reunited in Denver with his former agent, Pierre Lacroix, who had moved on to become general manager of the Avalanche, Patrick spent part of eight seasons with Colorado, earning two more Stanley Cup championships (1996 and 2001), a third Conn Smythe Trophy (2001), his fifth Jennings Trophy (2002) as well as a sixth All-Star selection (2002).

"I knew I was going to a very good team," began Patrick. "Pierre Lacroix wanted to win the Stanley Cup as badly as I wanted to win it. It was a good fit. All the players took so much pride in being involved in the community."

Before announcing his retirement on May 28, 2003, Patrick Roy was the first NHL goalkeeper to play more than 1,000 regular season games (he finished having played 1,029), was the winningest regular season netminder in NHL history (551) and the winningest playoff goalie (151). "I was extremely comfortable when I retired," stated Roy. "I emptied the tank." Patrick's number 33 was retired by the Colorado Avalanche on October 28, 2003.

The latest and greatest individual award arrived for Patrick Roy on November 13. That's the evening he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The entire Induction Weekend was a whirlwind for Patrick. Arriving in Toronto from Quebec City two days before the ceremony, Patrick's first introduction as an Honored Member of the Hall of Fame took place prior to the Hall of Fame Game between Toronto and Montreal on November 11. With the on-ice red carpet flanked by greats such as Jean Beliveau, Johnny Bower, Yvan Cournoyer and Michel Goulet (who had earlier called Patrick to guide him through what to expect over the course of the weekend), Roy, Dick Duff, Harley Hotchkiss and Dan Brooks, representing his late father, were escorted to center ice. The Honored Members took part in the ceremonial face-off between Saku Koivu of the Canadiens and Toronto's Bryan McCabe.

With a backdrop of flowers and banners in the Hockey Hall of Fame's Interactive Zone, Patrick on Sunday was joined by Duff, Hotchkiss and Jim Craig, netminder on Team USA's gold medal-winning team with Herb Brooks in 1980, in a question and answer session called the Fan Forum. Roy was bombarded with platitudes and questions, and answered candidly and with great humor. Among many responses, Patrick told the overflowing crowd that his most cherished memory was winning the Stanley Cup. "There's no doubt about it. As a kid, you play on the street, pretending you're playing for the Stanley Cup. You grab a piece of wood and lift it over your head like the Stanley Cup."

Patrick also responded to a fan from Denver who asked about his various superstitions. Roy grinned and stated, "I really believe they helped me to remain focused."

Afterwards, the newest Inductees attended the Hockey Hall of Fame's Legends Classic Game between Team Canada and Team World. Prior to the opening puck drop, Roy, Duff, Hotchkiss and Kelly Brooks, the daughter of posthumously inducted Herb Brooks, received their official Hockey Hall of Fame Induction blazers.

That afternoon, ever mindful of what he was missing back home, Patrick spoke to Martin Laperriere, assistant coach of the Quebec Remparts, the junior club Roy owns and acts as both general manager and coach. His advice clearly helped, as that evening, the Remparts defeated the P.E.I. Rockets with a 4-3 shoot-out win.

In Toronto for Patrick's Induction were his three children, 17-year-old Jonathan, a netminder in the junior Victoriaville Tigres' system, 15-year-old Frederick, who plays Midget AAA in Ste. Foy, and 13-year-old daughter Jana, who is involved in karate. "It's an honor to be their dad," he told Fan Forum attendees on Sunday. Also there to witness Patrick's induction were his mother and father, his brother Stephane, who spent part of 1987-88 with the Minnesota North Stars, and his sister Alexandre.

The Induction morning began with a media conference in the Hall of Fame's Hartland Molson Theatre, at which the four Inductees were formally introduced to the press and electronic media as Honored Members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. There, they received their Hall of Fame rings from Selection Committee Chairman Jim Gregory and Bill Hay, chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame. As expected, Roy was awash in a sea of interviews and photographs.

Formal portraits of the Inductees were taken that afternoon, utilizing various configurations of the Inductees and their family members and guests.

Then, it was the realization of a dream.

With a capacity crowd looking on in the Hall of Fame's breathtaking MCI Great Hall, the official Induction Ceremony began. After a welcome from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Dick Duff, Harley Hotchkiss, Dan Brooks, on behalf of his father, and then Patrick Roy took their respective turns being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. After receiving his Hall of Fame plaque from Bill Hay, Patrick spoke of dreams - those of an eight-year-old boy in Ste. Foy, Quebec watching Daniel Bouchard of the Nordiques and realizing he, too, wanted to be a goalie. He spoke of friends and family who have helped him excel and realize his more advanced dreams. Today, with his junior Remparts club, he's helping a new generation reach for their dreams. "I'm very fortunate to receive this honor," smiled Roy. "It brings you back to thinking about your career and the great teammates and tremendous support I have received from my family over the years."

Former Avalanche teammate Ray Bourque, who was himself inducted into the Hall of Fame two years ago, was present for the ceremony. Adam Foote, Roy's Avalanche roommate and close friend, made every attempt to get into Toronto for the Induction, but was disappointed that his schedule with the Columbus Blue Jackets didn't allow him to surprise Patrick. Nonetheless, Foote was cheekily acknowledged by Roy during his Induction speech. "I want to thank Adam Foote. He was probably my best English teacher." Patrick hesitated for a moment, then breaking into a smile, added, "I should have played more years I guess!"

Following laughter and applause, Roy continued. "I feel very lucky to have played in the National Hockey League and on teams such as the Canadiens and the Avalanche. I remember the sacrifices, the discipline and the effort, but I also remember the friendships and the awesome feeling of being part of a team." After congratulating his fellow Inductees, Patrick concluded by saying, "Long live hockey!"

Earlier, Avalanche president Pierre Lacroix punctuated Patrick Roy's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. "When we acquired Patrick Roy in 1995, we knew what he would bring to our hockey club, but I don't think anybody could've imagined the success we would later enjoy. Our organization and our fans are still in awe of what he has accomplished. We were all privileged to have had the opportunity to see Patrick for so many years in an Avalanche uniform. He was a great leader and ambassador of the game whose passion and determination was second to none. The contributions he made to our organization and community will never be forgotten, and the images of Patrick hoisting the (Stanley) Cup in 1996 and 2001 will live in our minds forever."

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and On-line Features at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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