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Avalanche coach Roy ready to return to Bell Centre

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- Patrick Roy's relationship with the Montreal Canadiens and their legion of fans is, in a word, complicated.

It could be argued Roy was the historic franchise's greatest Stanley Cup Playoff hero, playing goal behind two teams in 1986 and 1993 that had no business winning the championship, but did almost exclusively because of him.

The Stanley Cup victory in 1993 was the 24th in Canadiens history, by far the most in the NHL.

It was also the most-recent.

It could just as easily be argued that Roy set the wheels in motion for the franchise-record championship drought the Canadiens find themselves in today on Dec. 2, 1995. That's when he forced rookie general manager Rejean Houle to trade him by telling team president Ronald Corey in the middle of a blowout loss to the Detroit Red Wings that he had played his final game for the Canadiens.

Roy went on to win the Stanley Cup two more times with the Colorado Avalanche and the Canadiens have made it as far as the Eastern Conference Final once since his departure. So, Roy could be seen as the Canadiens' greatest hero by some and its biggest villain by others, a beloved native son and black sheep rolled into one.

Roy will be behind the Avalanche bench at Bell Centre on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN, ALT, RDS) to face the Canadiens in Montreal as a competitor for the first time since Nov. 6, 2001, when he made 29 saves for Colorado in a 1-1 tie in the same building.

Considering the diametrically opposed ways people in Montreal could potentially see Roy, he wouldn't be blamed for being a bit apprehensive about the reaction he will receive from the expected sellout crowd of 21,273 on Tuesday.

But Roy doesn't feel that way at all, probably because he doesn't have an apprehensive bone in his body.

"I expect it to be great," Roy said at a packed news conference at Bell Centre on Monday after the Avalanche practiced there.

Though Roy has never had a problem with confidence, he has a legitimate reason for feeling that way on this issue.

Anything negative that might have lingered between Roy, the Canadiens and their fans was erased when his No. 33 was retired on Nov. 22, 2008. During a ceremony where Roy symbolically walked into the Bell Centre through the main entrance and made his way through the fans to the ice, he delivered an emotional speech professing his love for the Canadiens and his relief that the messy divorce 13 years earlier was behind him.

Roy returned a year later to take part in the celebration of the Canadiens centennial on Dec. 4, 2009. When a local newspaper ran a poll in 2012 asking fans who they would like to most see fill the vacant positions of general manager and coach, Roy finished first for each position.

"I would have both jobs if it were voted by the fans," Roy said. "I truly appreciate that. I thought that was a great gesture from them to give me that opportunity to be on top. It made me feel good, with the fans. It's not that I had doubts, but at the same time it was nice to see that the past was way behind us and everybody moved on and they could see me as their next coach or GM. For the ego, I have to admit it feels good."

Roy, of course, did not get either job with the Canadiens, with rookie GM Marc Bergevin choosing instead to go with a veteran coach in Michel Therrien after having interviewed Roy for that job. And now Roy arrives in Montreal at the helm of one of the best teams in the NHL, a favorite to win the Jack Adams Trophy as the League's top coach in his rookie season in Colorado.

But Roy is not interested in accolades, enforcing his philosophy that the coaching staff is in a partnership with the players and choosing to give them the credit for what has been a remarkable season in Colorado.

"I will never take credit for the success of the team," Roy said. "It's because of our players that we are where we are today. We are their partners, we provided resources, we will continue to come up with new ideas, but it's the players that deserve the credit for what's happening in Colorado. The team missed the playoffs four of the past five years, and I think the guys wanted that to change."

Roy may not want to take the credit, but his players are only too willing to give it to him.

"Patrick was always a winner, and he's still a winner today," Avalanche goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "When someone like him arrives, you know you're going to have success because he's always had success.

"It was motivating."

The Avalanche players will be very motivated to get a win Tuesday for Roy, who is trying to look at the game as one of 82 on the schedule, but obviously means much more.

It will represent another chapter in Roy's love/hate relationship with the Canadiens' passionate fan base, one which will likely show him much more love than hate Tuesday, a mending of fences that began when his number was raised to the Bell Centre rafters a little over five years ago.

"When I met [former Canadiens general manager] Bob Gainey and [former team president] Pierre Boivin the summer before they retired my jersey, I said to them, 'It's been behind me for a long time,'" Roy said. "I was looking forward to that day, but unfortunately it takes two to dance sometimes. I was very happy to be back in the family, and having the opportunity to see my jersey retired meant a lot to me.

"I learned a lot from this franchise. It helped me to become the person I am. Not only the person I am, but also the player I was."

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