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Montreal salutes Patrick Roy as his No. 33 is retired

by Dan Rosen
MONTREAL — Patrick Roy said hello Saturday night to the fans who used to hang off the edge of their seats in the Montreal Forum, mouths agape, whenever No. 33 stood in the crease and made brilliant save after brilliant save.

More importantly, though, was that Roy, returning as a conquering hero to the city where his legend was born, finally got the chance to say thank you and good-bye the right way to those very same fans.

It's been an emotional and contentious 13 years in the making, but Saturday night at the Bell Centre, Roy was welcomed back into the Montreal Canadiens family with roaring ovations by an adoring sellout crowd of 21,273 prior to the Boston Bruins' 3-2 shootout victory.

With everyone in the arena standing, Roy's No. 33 was raised to the rafters after an emotional ceremony that lasted 45 minutes. It was hosted by legendary broadcasters Dick Irvin, who spoke in English, and Richard Garneau, who spoke in French.

"You're never sure what kind of welcome you're going to get, but I was confident to have a nice one," Roy said during a news conference no more than 20 minutes after leaving the ice to one final standing ovation. "It was over than what I expected."

What it was, actually, was an entire fan base wrapping its collective arms around Roy and, with every standing ovation — and there were many — saying they forgive and it's time to move on.

Roy is ready to as well.

"I sincerely do think that life goes on for him as of today, for sure," said Pierre Lacroix, the president of the Colorado Avalanche, who was Roy's agent during his time in Montreal before becoming the GM of the Avalanche.

It was Lacroix who traded for Roy on Dec. 5, 1995, three days after his infamous meltdown against the Detroit Red Wings. Roy gave up nine goals on 26 shots to the Detroit Red Wings before he was mercifully pulled by then-coach Mario Tremblay.

Upon leaving the ice, an embarrassed and irate Roy stopped to tell then-team president Ronald Corey, who was sitting behind the Canadiens' bench, that he would never wear the bleu, blanc et rouge again.

He was wrong.

It took him until Saturday night, but Roy walked into the Bell Centre wearing those famous colors. With cameras following him, he walked in from one of the arena entrances and through the lower concourse level, greeting stunned fans who were buying sodas, beers, hot dogs and nachos when the legend walked by them.

Roy made his way to the entrance-way into Section 101 and then walked down the stairs, engulfed by the standing, roaring sellout crowd. He stopped to greet Montreal great Jean Beliveau, one of 14 others to have his number hanging in the rafters here.

"It was nice when Mr. Garneau was talking and they were cheering even louder," said Roy, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy twice with the Canadiens. "It always touches you, that kind of reaction. I don't know if I can express myself well enough in English, but you are always touched by a welcome like that."

Roy, who admitted he was nervous about delivering his speech, did so flawlessly, in both English and French. It was as if his speech was intended for the fans who cheered him every step of the way for his 10-plus seasons in Montreal.

Not one to mince his words, Roy told the fans during his eight-minute speech that he was home again, home at last.

"To me it really turns the page on what happened in that last game," Roy said. "I said I was coming back home and I truly believe in what I said. I am extremely happy to wear that jersey today."

Joining Irvin, Garneau and Lacroix in paying homage to Roy during the ceremony were three of his former coaches — Jean Perron, Pat Burns and Jacques Demers. When Roy led the Habs to the Stanley Cup championship in 1986 as a 20-year-old wunderkind, Perron was his coach. When he brought the Cup back to Montreal in 1993, Demers was the coach. Burns coached Roy from 1988-92.

Testimonials of Roy's greatness were delivered via video by Joe Sakic, Raymond Bourque, Luc Robitaille, Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak. Roy still owns the NHL's all-time record for regular-season wins (551) and playoff victories (151).

Every member of the current Canadiens team was on the ice for the ceremony. They were all wearing Roy No. 33 jerseys. Price, Halak and team captain Saku Koivu helped Roy raise the banner bearing his name and number.

Throughout the entire ceremony, including his speech, Roy never once choked up or had to wipe tears from his eyes.


"My father is one that keeps it all inside and that's what he did, he kept it inside," said Jonathan Roy, Patrick's 19-year-old son who plays goalie for the Quebec Remparts, the team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League coached by No. 33. "I know what he's living right now is something he's never lived before, and I think he's very proud of himself."

Jonathan Roy said he spoke to his dad a few days ago and sensed there was a little fear or trepidation about how the fans would react to him.

"He was a little scared, I would say," Jonathan said. "He was anxious to see what the fans would be like and see if they would do exactly what they did. The fans were great, and that's the bottom line."

In keeping with the making amends theme, Roy told the attending media that he has spoken to Tremblay "a couple of times in the past and we talked it over."

He added that he considered himself "very lucky to have a night like this," mainly because he finally got to tell the fans that he "wanted to come back and I would have loved to play my entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. There is no doubt."

This isn't Roy's first time through such a ceremony. His No. 33 also hangs in the rafters at the Pepsi Center in Denver, where it was retired by the Avalanche in 2003.

However, as great as that ceremony was, Saturday's extravaganza shot right up the charts on Roy's all-time greatest moments' list.

"I was in Colorado and it was big, but this is where he started his career and this is where it ends. That's amazing," Jonathan Roy said. "It closes his career and closes this chapter in his life. His career is totally complete with this night."

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