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NHL Centennial

Patrick Roy makes history in final season

Becomes first goalie to play 1,000 NHL regular-season games

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

MONTREAL -- He was in the final season of his illustrious career, one that three years after his final game would see him inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Patrick Roy's name forever and necessarily is in the discussion about the greatest goaltenders of all-time, a four-time Stanley Cup champion, twice each with the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche, as well as a three-time Vezina Trophy winner and the only three-time recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But for all of Roy's achievements, he reserves a special place for his milestone, a record that will be his forever, of being the first goalie in NHL history to play 1,000 regular-season games.

The native of Quebec City reached the plateau in Denver with the Avalanche on Jan. 20, 2003, a few months before his final NHL game. The 1-1 tie against the visiting Dallas Stars was a footnote to Roy playing his 1,000th game, making 29 saves that night against Marty Turco.

Roy had overhauled scores of NHL goaltending records on his road to 1,000. Earlier that 2002-03 season, Roy's 18th full year in the NHL, he rewrote two notable standards held by the legendary Terry Sawchuk - in October, Roy passed the latter's NHL-record 971 games played; the following month, he eclipsed Sawchuk's minutes-played of 57,194.

There had been considerable fanfare in the final days leading to the Jan. 20 game in Denver, Roy knocking on the door of goaltending history.

His first contract with the Canadiens, signed in July 1984, contained a bonus clause that would pay him $5,000 should he play 40 or more games in his rookie season. He did much more than that in 1985-86, playing 47 games then anchoring the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup championship and winning the first of his three Conn Smythe trophies.

"At first, my only goal was to earn a job in the League," Roy said, quoted by his father, Michel, in the 2007 biography "Patrick Roy: Winning, Nothing Else."

"Then, it was to survive, then to produce consistently excellent performances and to apply myself, with intensity and perseverance, in practices and games."

Roy's historic 1,000th game was preceded by a ceremony to recognize the achievement. Jim Gregory, then the NHL's vice-president of hockey operations, presented the goalie with a crystal sculpture on behalf of the League.

And then Roy was greeted at center ice by 2017 Hall of Fame goaltender Rogie Vachon, who offered the man of the hour a sterling goal stick inscribed for the occasion.

The silver stick was a golden touch, Roy having idolized Vachon as a boy. It was a trip to the Montreal Forum with his father to see Vachon with the Los Angeles Kings that convinced him that he'd make his living playing goal.

Turco was honored to play in the visitor's net that night.

"I don't know if I can really comprehend 1,000 games," said Turco, who was still a few games shy 100 in the NHL. "He didn't just play 1,000 mediocre games, he's played 1,000 of the best hockey games any goaltender has ever played."

Many of his records would in time be rewritten by New Jersey Devils icon Martin Brodeur, but Roy remains the NHL's leader in postseason games played (247) and playoff wins (151).

Avalanche forward Mike Keane knew Roy in two jerseys, having played with him in Montreal and then arriving with him in Colorado in the Dec. 1995 trade that sent Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko to the Canadiens.

"If he wins another 20 games, is that going to make him any better than what he is?" Keane wondered aloud on the eve of Roy's 1,000th game. "He basically has done everything and broken every record, so I think it's pretty safe to say he's the greatest goalie who ever played."

It was Tony Granato, Roy's coach in Colorado his final season, who summed up an entire League's scouting report on goaltending's first man to play 1,000 NHL games.

"We talked all day about, 'How do we beat this guy? What do we have to do as shooters?'" said Granato, whose 1993 Los Angeles Kings were stoned by Roy and the Canadiens in that Stanley Cup Final. "I think that's the advantage he has. Psychologically, you try to adjust your shots and try to do something you're not capable of, or something you're not comfortable with."

Roy retired at season's end with 1,029 regular-season games, which ranks him No. 2 all-time behind Brodeur's 1,266.

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