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Patrick Roy's career marked by intensity, emotion

Hall of Famer, known for outbursts as player, behind bench, quits as Avalanche coach

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

Not even 60 minutes into his NHL coaching career, Patrick Roy was going berserk.

The freshly minted coach of the Colorado Avalanche was red in the face, blood-pressure spiking, as he violently shook the glass partition separating his team's bench from that of visiting Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 2, 2013.

Late in the game, Roy was worked up by - no, he was losing his mind over - a knee-on-knee collision between Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy and Avalanche rookie Nathan MacKinnon, the No. 1 draft pick a few months earlier.

Colorado's new coach had arrived behind his first NHL bench with blood that historically was within a degree of reaching a boil, so proven during his playing career with Montreal Canadiens and the Avalanche and as a coach of Quebec in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

That intensity, in many ways, is what made Roy a four-time winner of the Stanley Cup - twice with the Canadiens, twice more with the Avalanche. It is what made Roy one of the greatest goaltenders, a template for a generation at the position as he played his way to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Video: E.J. Hradek looks at Patrick Roy's decision to resign

Emotion is what famously ended Roy's time in Montreal in 1995 when he butted heads with Canadiens coach Mario Tremblay. Left in the net for nine Detroit Red Wings goals, Roy finally was given the hook during a Dec. 2 game at Montreal Forum. Coming off the ice, he stormed past Tremblay behind the bench to tell Canadiens president Ronald Corey that he had played his final game for Montreal.

The head-on collision between two colossal egos - his and Tremblay's - triggered the trade to Colorado on Dec. 6, a multi-player deal that remains a fresh wound to many Canadiens fans.

Emotion no doubt played at least a role in Roy's stunning announcement Thursday that he was quitting as Avalanche coach and vice president of hockey operations, citing philosophical differences with management.

But, there he was on Oct. 2, 2013, before the final siren of his first NHL game as a coach - a 6-1 victory - and he was pounding on the glass and screaming at then-Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau; if the glass had toppled, arena staff might still be cleaning up the mess.

The NHL fined Roy $10,000 for the outburst. Boudreau called Roy's explosion "bush league."

Boudreau added: "[Roy is] going to be in for a long year if he's going to yell at every player and yell at the refs at every stoppage of play. It's not the way the game is played."

The following day, Roy's blood was down to a simmer.

"I guess I have to change a few things," he said. "I got the $10,000 fine by the League for that. I understand it now. At the same time, I will always defend my players. … This is the way I dealt with this one. Will I deal with it differently next time? Maybe. Or maybe not."

Intensity was Roy's middle name as a goaltender, both in Montreal and Colorado. Stir supreme confidence into the pot; add more than a dash of arrogance.

In 1993, there was his cocky "you can't beat me" wink at Tomas Sandstrom of the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final with the Canadiens on their way to their 10th consecutive overtime victory en route to the championship.

In 1996, with Colorado, reacting to the playoff trash-talking of Chicago Blackhawks forward Jeremy Roenick, Roy said through his crooked grin: "I can't really hear what Jeremy says because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears."

Roy would add another ring that season, and one more in 2001, having won his first with the Canadiens as a 20-year-old rookie in 1986, his second in Montreal in 1993.

Tremblay hadn't heard about Roy's resignation Thursday afternoon when I reached him, offering a "no comment."

A stony silence between the two men ended a few years ago at the golf tournament of Canadiens coach Michel Therrien.

On March 18, 2014, Roy returned to Montreal's Bell Centre for his first game in the city as coach of the Avalanche, before which Tremblay spoke with former Canadiens enforcer Chris Nilan on the latter's Montreal radio show.

Tremblay recalled that he had asked Roy after the first period of the legendary game against Detroit whether the goalie felt well after having surrendered five goals.

Told by Roy that he felt fine, Tremblay put him back in the net.

"The mistake I made [is that] I should have pulled him out after the seventh goal," Tremblay told Nilan. "But I don't think Patrick should have reacted the way he did. There's always a time to talk with the coach, talk with the GM. [Roy] made a mistake, I made a mistake, so let's move on."

Both men have done just that.

Roy's No. 33 was retired by the Canadiens during an emotional ceremony on Nov. 22, 2008. During it, a five-minute standing ovation was accorded to the man known in Quebec as Saint Patrick. A dozen pint-sized goalies skated onto the ice wearing NHL jerseys bearing the names of Quebec-bred goalies, a tribute to Roy's influence in developing goaltenders in his home province.

Video: Patrick Roy reaches the end of the line in Montreal

A year later, on Dec. 4, 2009, Roy strapped on the pads once more on Montreal ice, turning back the clock to kick out pucks snapped at him by his vintage teammates in a Bell Centre ceremony before the Canadiens' centennial game.

To this day, there remain those who say that Roy bailed on his team professionally and personally on Dec. 2, 1995, when he and Tremblay spontaneously combusted.

But on the warm and fuzzy 2008 night of his jersey retirement, Roy didn't much care to try to change opinions that he knew were cast in cement. He and the Canadiens had come together to repair a relationship that had been torn apart by pigheaded ego and runaway emotion, and that was all that mattered.

"I think [the ceremony] really turned the page on what happened in the last game [in 1995]," Roy said after the ceremony. "I've been ready to move on for a long time. It was fun at the end to say I'm coming back home. I truly believe that. I was truly happy to wear that [Canadiens] jersey tonight."

After a March 2014 practice before his first game back in Montreal, coaching the Avalanche against the Canadiens, I suggested to Roy that the $10,000 fine for his meltdown against Anaheim was better called an investment, his new team learning very early on that he had its back.

"I don't remember what happened that game," Roy replied with a grin. "I just need to look at my paycheck to see it."

Montreal spanked the Avalanche 6-3 that night, but that wasn't the biggest story. It would be the ear-splitting ovation for the visiting coach, a man whose emotion and fire and brilliance in goal had gifted Canadiens fans with their two most recent Stanley Cup parades.

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