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The ultimate competitor

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL -- While it may be a bitter pill to swallow, there’s no shame in being beaten by the best. A couple of great goalies faced that reality at the hands of Patrick Roy in the spring of 1993.

With Roy firing on all cylinders and the Canadiens steamrolling their way to a 24th Stanley Cup,  a pair of goalies who were no slouches in their own right had the misfortune of squaring off against St. Patrick. As one would expect, the Nordiques’ Ron Hextall and Grant Fuhr of the Sabres hardly have fond memories of their postseason encounter with Roy in 1993.

It may have been 15 years since they were each snuffed out by the Habs that spring, but both Hextall and Fuhr have vivid memories of what going head-to-head with Roy was like.

Having each enjoyed his fair share of postseason success over the years with five Stanley Cup to his credit and his 92 playoffs wins ranking behind only Roy (151) and Brodeur (95) on the NHL all-time list, Fuhr knows there is nothing quite like facing the Habs’ former No. 33.

“I enjoyed going up against a talented goalie like Patrick even though it was also a huge challenge,” said Fuhr, the former All-Star netminder turned goalie coach with the Coyotes. “When we faced Patrick in 1993, he was the best goalie in the game. Come playoff time, Patrick’s game always went up a notch.” 

Fuhr’s opinion on Roy is shared by many of his padded peers, including Hextall.

“If you knew you were going to face Patrick in the playoffs, you had better be at your best,” warned Hextall, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy with the Flyers in 1987. “The goal was of course to see your team come out on top, but you still knew you were facing the top goalie in the league. As his opponent, you had to respect that it was going to take all you had to beat him.”

Now the assistant GM of the Los Angeles Kings, Hextall will always be remembered as a fierce competitor. It must take one to know one as Hextall knows exactly what gave Roy a leg up on the rest of the league.

“He was so driven and determined. He was a great goalie, but it was that drive of his that set him apart,” revealed Hextall. “He wanted to win at all costs. He would accept nothing less of himself and that’s what made Patrick, Patrick.”

Manny Almela is a writer for Michael Sharer of the Phoenix Coyotes and Thomas LaRocca of the L.A. Kings contributed to this article.

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