MONTREAL - Patrick Roy may have just made a return to the Junior ranks, but 25 years ago to the day on June 9, he was on top of the NHL.
Few people could have predicted that the Canadiens would manage to hoist the Stanley Cup in 1993, especially before the season that would crown the 100th champion in the history of the precious trophy got underway. Roy and his teammates, however, quickly noted that their new coach at the time had quite a clear vision in mind during their first meeting on the ice.
"I remember when Jacques Demers got on the ice during the first practice of the season. He said to us: 'Guys, we're going to shock the hockey world and win the Stanley Cup.' We all looked at each other, questioning whether or not we'd missed something," admitted the Hall of Famer with a laugh. "Jacques believed it and he really thought it would happen. He brought that determination to everyone on the team and it led to the results that we know of today."
Demers' ability to motivate his troops proved fruitful when his squad finished the regular season with a tally of 102 points. By placing third in the Adams division, the Canadiens made the dreams of fans throughout Quebec come true by earning a first-round playoff matchup with the Quebec Nordiques.
Unfortunately, things didn't play out the way the Habs would have hoped after dropping their first two games at the Colisée, including a heartbreaking overtime defeat in Game 1.
"When we lost the first two games in Quebec, I have to say that we didn't play badly during Game 1. The guys played well, but I wasn't good in the final minutes. If we look back on it, we were up 2-0 and they scored two goals in the last two minutes of the game. I knew that I had to play better, but I was confident," explained Roy, who notably conceded four goals to the Nordiques during Game 2.
"When we returned to Montreal for Game 3, we knew that it was the key game and we had to have a strong showing."
That's exactly what happened when the Canadiens picked up the all-important Game 3 victory, the first of 10-straight overtime wins the Habs would rack up that spring. Following that first postseason W, the Canadiens won the next three tilts to eliminate their long-time rivals. Having been born in Sainte-Foy, just minutes from the Colisée, the legendary goaltender managed to avoid being disowned by locals in his hometown after returning to the area a short time later.
"People in Quebec City didn't really hold it against me. A few of them made some jokes and told me that they hated me because I eliminated the Nordiques," shared Roy with a chuckle, on the subject of being confronted in public. "In general, people are extremely happy that I came back home and got involved with the Remparts."
Like many will affirm, the comeback against the Nordiques served as a trampoline of sorts for the Canadiens during their run that spring. They swept the Sabres in the second round before disposing of the Islanders in five games to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Kings.
The matchup with Los Angeles, however, proved difficult at the outset of the series as the Kings looked to Wayne Gretzky and his league-leading playoff points tally to lead the way. Gretzky registered a four-point night in the Kings' 4-1 win over the Canadiens in Game 1 at the Montreal Forum. But, just like they'd done in the opening round against the Nordiques, the Habs remained calm, using the loss to only further their desire to pick themselves up and finish what they'd started.
"Somebody different stepped up each game. During Game 2, Eric Desjardins scored a hat trick. After that, when we arrived in Los Angeles, John LeClair scored two overtime winners," recalled Roy, who was presented with the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the most outstanding player in the playoffs, following the Canadiens' postseason run. "For a team like ours, if we wanted to win the Stanley Cup, we couldn't have any passengers. We didn't have any. Everyone was on board and the guys were working hard. Honestly, that's what allowed us to be able to shock the hockey world."
Twenty-five years later, we still often hear talk about Roy's famous wink at Tomas Sandstrom after denying the Swedish forward a sure goal during the series. The legendary netminder also achieved something rather rare and infrequent in a sport as physical and raw as hockey.
Video: 1993 Cup Final, Gm4: Confident Roy winks at Sandstrom
"It's pretty incredible, but I managed to play all of the games in the playoffs with the same stick," confirmed Roy, who contested all 20 tilts in the postseason and spent 1,283 minutes in goal that spring. "Honestly, it's something that I was never able to do again. I don't know what Gerv [team equipment manager Pierre Gervais] managed to do with my stick to make it so strong."
For Roy, who always thrived on a desire to beat the odds, the Canadiens' Stanley Cup triumph in 1993 will always hold a special place in his heart. He may have four championship rings in his collection, but the one he picked up that year stood out because of the tireless work he put in both on and off the ice to make it happen. Still, the fact that he was able to help his teammates reach the top is what's most important in his eyes.
"The best memory I have of the run is the accomplishment of winning the Cup. It wasn't an easy season for me in 1993. It was filled with highs and lows," specified Roy. "To have been able to turn things around, it put me on the right path that helped me for the rest of my career."
This article, which originally appeared on canadiens.com in June 2013, was updated in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the team's 1993 Stanley Cup Championship.