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Closing the door on Dec. 2, 1995

by Adam Kimelman

"The good thing that will happen on Saturday is we'll talk more about those years, 1986, 1993, when we had great runs in Montreal and we're going to finally put away that December 2 of 1995."
-- Patrick Roy

There have been many nights to celebrate in the centennial of the Montreal Canadiens' history. Not the night of Dec. 2, 1995, however. That is one everyone involved with the franchise would rather forget.

On Saturday night, Patrick Roy, the Canadiens' franchise goaltender, will have his No. 33 sweater retired by the Canadiens. Back on Dec. 2, 1995, such a night seemed impossible.

"The good thing that will happen on Saturday is we'll talk more about those years, 1986, 1993, when we had great runs in Montreal and we're going to finally put away that December 2 of 1995," said Roy.

Few Canadiens fans will forget that night though. Roy was left in to allow the first nine goals of what became an 11-1 blowout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Finally pulled, an angry, embarrassed Roy demanded a trade from Montreal.

There are a number of theories as to why Roy was left in the blowout so long. Most of them revolve around an uneasy relationship between Roy and Mario Tremblay, then the Canadiens coach. The two had been teammates with the Canadiens, but never were friends, and certainly didn't have the relationship Roy enjoyed with Tremblay's predecessor, Jacques Demers.

Regardless of the reason, the damage was done. Once pulled midway through the second period, Roy stormed past Tremblay to get to Canadiens President Ronald Corey, who was sitting in the first row behind the players' bench. He forcefully told Corey that he had played his last game with the Canadiens, and then walked brusquely back past Tremblay -- the men never said a word to each other -- and took his seat on the bench.

Roy got his wish. General Manager Rejean Houle announced the next day Roy had been suspended and that he would investigate a trade. On Dec. 7, Houle made the deal that sent Roy and Mike Keane to the Colorado Avalanche for Jocelyn Thibault, Andrei Kovalenko and Martin Rucinsky.

Roy went on to win two more Stanley Cups in Colorado and retired as the all-time winningest goalie in NHL history.

"It's funny because when you get to the NHL, they say one game doesn't make a career," Roy said, "but one game made my career in Montreal."

In fact, one game ended his career in Montreal, and created a rift that lasted for the better part of the last 13 years. After he retired, Roy returned to Quebec, where he has become co-owner, GM and coach of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He watched as the Canadiens went through ups and downs -- but always from afar, like a distant, unmentioned relative.

In the last few years, though, the relationship has been rekindled.

"The people who are now in place, they were not there when I left," Roy told Tremblay was fired at the end of the 1996-97 season; Houle was fired in November 2000; Corey left his post as team president in 1999.

Leading the breakthrough have been Pierre Boivin, who replaced Corey, and general manager Bob Gainey, who took over in July 2003.

"I met a few times with Mr. Boivin," Roy said. "Bob Gainey invited me to a golf tournament a few years ago. They called me maybe in the middle of the summer and we organized a dinner at my place, and Mr. Boivin and Bob Gainey came over and we chatted about a lot of things -- their team, my team, and after we went on to the jersey."

Boivin believed that enough time had passed that he and others within the Canadiens organization could successfully rebuild the bridge that had been detonated on that December night.

"To me it's all about family," Boivin told "There was an unfortunate incident that created or caused a departure of him from Montreal. Many people would wish history had been different, but it is what it is. It's important that these things not be permanent.

"He was prepared to turn the page and to move on and he chose to come back to Quebec, to live here, to co-own and coach a team in junior hockey. And so he had re-integrated into the community. And it was high time he reintegrate with the (Canadiens) family."

It's a family Roy is more than happy to rejoin.

"I'm extremely happy to get back in the Canadiens family," he said. "I think that's going to be a great feeling. There are a lot of good memories. My first two Stanley Cups were in Montreal."

Boivin said the time now was right for Roy to return.

"He realized we were sincere and we were determined and we were as concerned with where his head was about rather than creating a marketing opportunity for the club," he said.

Roy isn't the first Montreal legend to have a degree of estrangement from the team.

"It happened with Rocket Richard, Guy Lafleur, Patrick Roy … three generations that have cut links with the organization for certain reasons," Boivin said. "But in a matter of a decade they were all back in the fold and happy they were back in the family."

"I felt they were doing a lot for the past and they were trying to bring back a lot of memories for the fans from the past," Roy said. "It's a big thing for Montreal and the Montreal fans. It's just great to have been part of it. It makes you realize how great the organization has been over the years, how many great players and coaches and general managers who went through this organization. There's a lot of history behind that team."

And Roy was a major part of that history. And it's that history that he'll be thinking about Nov. 22 as he watches his No. 33 join the other legends at the top of the Bell Centre.

"When you see your jersey go up, it's for the good things you've done and that's the way I want to see it, or remember it," Roy said.

Contact Adam Kimelman at

Author: Adam Kimelman | Staff Writer

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