|Patrick Roy checks out a familiar face on the wall of the Canadiens' dressing room. |
MONTREAL - While it had been almost 13 years since he left the Canadiens, Patrick Roy's return to the Habs family made one thing clear: the former goaltending great is still king in Montreal.
Die-hard Habs fans will always remember where they were when Roy was traded on December 6, 1995. Following the Canadiens' announcement that his No. 33 will be retired this season, those same fans will now get to cherish the day he will join the ranks of Habs immortals on November 22, 2008.
“When I recently had lunch with Pierre Boivin and Bob Gainey about this possibility, I was blown away with how they welcomed me,” explained Roy. “What struck me most was how the sense of family I was so used to with the Canadiens not only still exists, but is stronger than ever. And to be a part of it again means a lot to me. This is a great day and November 22 will be even better.”
After slipping on his familiar No. 33 Canadiens jersey, Roy looked like he’d stepped out of a silver Delorian straight from 1985, and was loving every minute of it.
“This feels pretty good,” chirped Roy as he looked down at the Canadiens’ logo he wore for 551 regular season games now back on his chest. “It’s been in the back of my mind for a long time. I’ve always wondered whether this day would come. I’m extremely happy to return to the Canadiens’ organization. It’s great to be back.”
With all the Stanley Cups and league awards filling his resume, the winningest goalie in NHL history knows his jersey retirement is the icing on the cake.
“When I got the call from Mr. Gillett, he mentioned how this is my home, where everything began for me and that it’s now fitting that this where it all ends,” explained Roy, who will join fellow legends Ken Dryden and Jacques Plante as the only Habs goalies to have their jersey retired. “I’m so honored to have been selected by the committee and I know their decisions are never easy. After all, the Canadiens have such an incredible tradition and have enjoyed so much success over the years. When you think of the 24 Stanley Cups and 754 players to ever have worn this jersey, you begin to realize what this all really means.”
Pushed to tip his hand as to who would be joining him on the ice for his big night at the Bell Centre in November, Roy could have gone on all day.
“Serge Savard drafted me and made my dream of playing in the NHL come true, Francois Allaire taught me so much as my first goalie coach, and Bob Gainey was the best captain I ever had. The list goes on and on,” said Roy as former teammates Gainey, Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller and Roland Melanson looked on in the jam-packed press conference room. “When I think back to all of those who helped me over the years, there are just too many to count. I would need the entire Bell Centre ice surface to fit everyone who deserves to be there with me.”
The open wound he left behind in 1995 has had time to heal over the years. Roy is hopeful he isn’t the only one eager to see him write a new chapter in his history with the Canadiens.
“I’m not sure if people realize how hard it was for me to leave Montreal, especially the way it all happened,” admitted Roy about his messy final days with the Habs. “I left a lot of friends behind and this is where I’m from. The time has come to turn the page, as much for me as for the fans.”
With the hockey-rich tradition of the Canadiens still as much a part of Roy’s DNA as ever, the meaning of his return to his original hockey home was not lost on the legendary netminder.
“This is where I became a winner and learned what it takes to be the best,” added Roy. “I understood early on that a good season in Montreal means only one thing—the Stanley Cup. And I never forgot that.”Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com