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Roy talks 1993 Stanley Cup win, future of Canadiens in Q&A

With champs being honored, Hall of Fame goalie discusses possibly coaching in NHL again

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

The Montreal Canadiens will celebrate the Stanley Cup-winning team of 1992-93, and their 24th and most recent Cup championship, before the home opener against the Los Angeles Kings at Bell Centre on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN2, RDS, FS-W, NHL.TV). But Patrick Roy will not be among the players and staff honored for a 20-game Stanley Cup Playoff performance that included a remarkable 10 consecutive overtime victories.

Roy, the goalie whose heroics (16-4, 2.13 goals-against average, .929 save percentage) helped the Canadiens win the title, will be with his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team in Quebec City, where he will coach the Quebec Remparts against Cape Breton. 

Roy, also the general manager, is in his second stint with Quebec. The 53-year-old Hall of Famer bought the team in 1997 and took over as GM during the 2003-04 season. He became coach in 2005-06, won the Memorial Cup that season and left to become coach and vice president of hockey operations for the Colorado Avalanche in 2013. Roy returned to hockey this season after two years away, having abruptly resigned from the Avalanche on Aug. 11, 2016, after three seasons.

He spoke with on Wednesday about the 1992-93 champions, this season's Canadiens, Montreal goalie Carey Price, the possibility of coaching again in the NHL, and enjoying being back in hockey in his hometown.


Behind the Quebec bench Thursday, will you also be thinking about your old Canadiens teammates in Montreal?

"No question. You have no idea how sad I'll be not to be there. It'll be tough, thinking about the guys who are there, the fans … I'll miss that game in Montreal a lot. I'd love to be there. I hope it won't be 30 or 40 years with no Stanley Cup (laughs). The fans are going to be so good to the guys and it's going to be a great night. I hope my old friend Jacques [Demers] will be able to be there (the former coach's health remains delicate following a stroke in 2016). When I was coaching the Avalanche, every year before my first game he'd give me a call. It was so funny. 'Hey Coach, good luck this year,' and I was like, 'OK, but I can't believe you're calling me Coach.' Jacques is such a great man. He had such a good impact and influence on every one of us. If he's at the Bell Centre, the fans are going to let him know, that's for sure."


Did you ever think that, 25 years later, the Canadiens would still be looking for not just their next Stanley Cup championship, but their next trip to the Stanley Cup Final?

"No. Never. It's a surprise to me. There's such a great history behind this franchise. And you know what? The Montreal Canadiens didn't always have the best team, but they always had a team that was willing to work hard and put in the effort to win. That's what we did (to win the Cup) in 1986 and 1993. We were not the best team talent-wise, but we had a great group of players who were willing to work hard night after night and put the effort in that was required to win."


Plenty changed with the Canadiens in the offseason after a tough season (29-40-13). Do you like where they are now? Do you think they're on the right path?

"If you're looking at the new NHL, it's young and fast. That's what (GM Marc) Bergevin is trying to do, go young and fast. The Vegas Golden Knights have been a very good example for a lot of teams. A team that is focused and works hard night after night will compete and be tough to beat. … I think Montreal is going in the right direction. Now it's a matter of evaluating the personnel, but I think they've been making some changes that so far, after two games, have been good."


Are you confident that goalie Carey Price will return to form?

"No doubt in my mind. None. Yesterday I was watching the news, seeing him on the ice by himself (with goaltending coach Stephane Waite). You see that he works hard at his game, he really wants to get on top of his game and put the focus there. That's the first good step. Obviously, when you reach close to 30 (Price turned 31 on Aug. 16), you need to play a little bit different. You're not as quick, you're a little more fragile. You need to take care of yourself and protect yourself. There's a different way to play. You need to be more square to the puck, you can't rely only on reflexes. I think he's learning that and I think he's going to have a really good year, I really believe that, and that he'll have a really good stretch after that."


Price is two wins shy of tying you for second in wins by a Canadiens goalie with 289 (Jacques Plante had 314). Of course, in your day, you didn't have the possible advantage of getting wins via the shootout.

"Big deal. Big deal. Carey is having a great career for Montreal. I did what I had to do in my day, he has to do what he has to do in his day. The thing that people want to see from Carey is him bringing the team to the Stanley Cup. That's going to be his challenge in the coming years and I know he's capable of doing it." 


This is your second tour of duty with Quebec, which follows three seasons in the NHL. Are you a different coach there now than you were the first time around?

"I think I am. I have more experience. When you start coaching at 30-some years old … the maturity level and experience and approach are different. The game has evolved, the communication with the players. They want you to help them. I have my players very involved in everything they've been doing. I try to do a lot of video with them. Give them the resources to perform.

"There are no guys who want to go to the rink and have a bad game. Every player is different, but you need to find a good balance between fair and tough. The fun part at the junior level is they all want to learn and play at the next level. Their approach is different than NHL players'. That's what I love about what I'm doing. There's a lot of teaching. They're very coachable, fun to work with … I'm trying to help them on and off the ice. Some of my players will succeed in things other than hockey, but they'll always use the chemistry you have in the dressing room or on the ice or interaction with fans. Working as a team, as a group, is a great tool for your future because you'll have to work as a team and be responsible and make some sacrifices and be disciplined. 

"I love what I'm doing and I'm very lucky to still be in hockey, working with young guys and kind of giving back to the game. It's been so good to me, and now it's my turn to give back. I love the challenge." 


When you signed with Quebec in April, you said it was a privilege and a gift to yourself to be able to return to your hometown and coach. That said, if an NHL team calls with a job, would you answer the phone?

"I would. But the way I left Colorado, it's going to be very difficult for me to get a job in the NHL. I knew that. But at the same time, I'm very comfortable where I am. It's not like I'm looking for a job but yes, I'd pick up the phone. When I resigned in Colorado, I put all the books I had, the game plans, in the trash can and I said, 'Coaching is over for me.' When Remparts president Jacques Tanguay called me, I said, 'OK, let me think about it.' You know what? This has given me a fresh start, an opportunity to put on the table everything I've been doing with the juniors but also as a pro. The past two years, when I was doing nothing but thinking, about what I could have done better or differently… in two years, you have a lot of nights to reflect on all of this. At the end of the day, you are who you are and it's great to still be in this game."


Do you have one memory about the 1993 Stanley Cup victory that's stronger than the rest?

"I'd say it's how positive Jacques was with us. From the first day of training camp to the very end, he really believed in us. He was very, very supportive of us. Actually I didn't play very well during the regular season and even the first two games in Quebec I wasn't very good (losing both to start the Adams Division Semifinals against the Nordiques). He stood by me, came in and told me, 'I'm going to live and die with you,' and that really put a lot of confidence in me. It took some pressure off at the same time in the way that I knew I had to perform. I had to come up with some big games because the team was playing so well. The guys were sharp, they were playing good hockey. All they needed was a goaltender to make some good saves for them."


You were a famously superstitious goalie. You used the same stick for all 20 playoff games that season: a Koho Revolution, white knob, blue tape about 8 inches down the shaft. True story that you gave the stick to assistant equipment manager Pierre Gervais for safekeeping between games?

"Yes, we were taking care of that stick (laughs). I'd use a different stick in the warmup to make sure I wouldn't break it. At the end, well, let's just say I'm glad the playoffs finished when they did. I have no idea where [Gervais] put it, but I'm sure it was pretty safe. I don't know where that stick went. When I was traded from Montreal to Colorado (on Dec. 6, 1995), I lost track of a few things." 

(On Wednesday, Gervais, now the equipment manager, said that the stick, which he returned to Roy in 1993, was stored back then under seats in the Montreal Forum changing room used by himself and equipment manager Eddy Palchak. "My life depended on keeping it safe," Gervais said with a laugh. "And on the road, I hid it where no one would ever find it.")


The 1993 Stanley Cup championship was your second of four (Roy won the Cup in 1996 and 2001 with the Avalanche). Can you rank that one against the others, or are all championships totally separate?

"They're all very independent. I was a rookie in 1986, there's the unknown of that, everything snowballs so fast. In 1993, I didn't have a good year, I wasn't playing very well. I was capable of turning things around going into the playoffs and that was something that I used a lot in my career after that. You could have struggles but it's not always the perfect picture. If you're capable of turning a tough year into a great playoff run, to me that was a good indication that you have to believe in what you're doing."


You have your own memories of 1993, but when you meet fans, do they have one that always comes up?

"Everybody's talking about the wink (Roy's cocky gesture at Los Angeles Kings forward Tomas Sandstrom during overtime in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, when no rebound came to Sandstrom off teammate Luc Robitaille's shot). That's No. 1. They all ask the same question: 'Why? What was that about?' I think Sandstrom saw it. If he didn't, he knows about it now (laughs). I don't remember whether we've ever spoken about it. What are the chances the camera catches that? It was a split second. You never think that the camera will be almost inside your mask. You see the video later and you say, 'Holy cow, what just happened there?'"

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