"Maybe if Paul Pageau's wife doesn't deliver that night maybe we don't have Patrick and maybe we don't win the Calder Cup."
-- Francois Allaire, goalie coach for the Sherbrooke Canadiens during Patrick Roy's Calder Cup run
To hear Francois Allaire tell the story, somewhere out there is a 23-year-old who may very well be the reason Patrick Roy
's legend was born so early.
On the eve of the 1985 Calder Cup playoffs, a 19-year-old Roy was promoted to be the No. 2 goalie for the Sherbrooke Canadiens behind Greg Moffett
because Paul Pageau
's wife went into labor and Rick Knickle was injured.
When Moffett broke his equipment during a game early in the first-round series against the Fredericton Express, the coaching staff was left with a difficult decision.
"We were losing 2-0 and the head coach (Pierre Creamer) called me and said, 'What do we do? Do we go with the kid or put our No. 1 guy back in there?' " Allaire recalled. "I said, 'Go with the kid. I don't care if he's 19 years old, he's stopping pucks.' "
Roy went in, and the legend was born. Roy led Sherbrooke to the Calder Cup championship, winning 10 games in 13 appearances. A year later, as a 20-year-old playing for the Montreal Canadiens
, he became the youngest goalie in NHL history to lead his team to the Stanley Cup.
Moffett never played professionally again. Pageau played one more season for Sherbrooke before retiring. Roy is a Hall of Famer who is still the NHL's all-time wins leader with 551. His number will be retired by the Montreal Canadiens
"Maybe if Paul Pageau
's wife doesn't deliver that night maybe we don't have Patrick and maybe we don't win the Calder Cup," Allaire said. "Patrick had one chance and he took it. That was it."
You could say the same thing about Allaire. Roy may have been his one chance to change the hockey world, and he took it.
"He was a really, really open-minded guy," Allaire told NHL.com. "That's probably the best quality of Patrick Roy
Roy's open-mindedness and talent led him to Allaire, who was the goalie coach for Sherbrooke when Roy was called up after his junior team, the Granby Bisons, was eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs.
Allaire said it was the first time he'd come across a goalie with Roy's size, flexibility and willingness to go down to his knees to stop the puck. The butterfly style was not popular at the time, but Allaire was a big fan and he needed a model to show that the system worked.
Roy was it.
Better yet, Roy was ready for Allaire.
"He really liked to go down to make saves which was not usual at that time," Allaire said. "He just wasn't doing it all the time because all of his coaches throughout his career told him, 'You have to stay up. You have to stay up.' It was liberation for him when we met in Sherbrooke and I said, 'Any time you want to go down to stop the puck do it.' He was really happy about it."
Allaire was thrilled, too, especially because Roy showed no fear, which at the time was a major breakthrough considering the equipment goalies were using.
"At that time the equipment wasn't like it is today," said Allaire, who's now the goalie coach with the Anaheim Ducks
. "The equipment wasn't built for a butterfly goalie. Sometimes you get the shots on the shoulders and inside your legs. That was a different thing at that time. Patrick was the kind of guy who really put his body in front of the shooter. He wasn't a scared guy. He would get a puck in the face and didn't bother him. At that time the pattern was if someone shot in the face of the goalie the goalie would try to slash the guy in retaliation. Patrick never did it. He would shake his head and get up and go for the next stop."
Right away, Allaire said he could see Roy's talent and potential. Upon Roy's arrival from Granby, Allaire told Creamer, Sherbrooke's coach, that the kid was better than anyone already on the team's roster.
"Pierre just looked at me and said, 'Wow, he's a junior guy,' " Allaire said. "I said it didn't matter for me because he's stopping more pucks than anybody else."
While Roy's physical assets -- size and skating ability -- were exactly what Allaire was looking for in someone to model the butterfly system he wanted to implement world-wide, the young goalie's intelligence only made the teaching that much easier.
"You cannot win the Cup at 20 years old in Montreal without being somebody special. Patrick was really a special athlete. His IQ for the game was phenomenal." -- Francois Allaire
Roy was a diver before Allaire got a hold of him. He soon learned how to go side-to-side in his net, sometimes sliding on both of his pads. He got better with rebounds. He moved well on his knees. He used his blocker more often.
It didn't take long, either.
"He was one of the only guys that I had of that caliber where you explain something to and that night he'll do it in the game," Allaire said. "Most of the guys take some time to think about it and practice it, but not Patrick. He was like, 'OK, I understand, I know what you mean. I know I can take advantage and I'm going to do it right away.' He was able to do it, which was amazing for a young kid at that age.
"You cannot win the Cup at 20 years old in Montreal without being somebody special. Patrick was really a special athlete. His IQ for the game was phenomenal."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.