Roy Bourque Cup

Finally, Ray Bourque has something new to text to Patrick Roy, his dear friend and fellow Hall of Famer who was hired Saturday as coach of the New York Islanders.

“I’d text Patrick constantly and he’d tell me, ‘I’m going to be playing golf in Florida, this and that, but if the right situation pops up …’ ” Bourque said Monday. “Every time a coach would be fired, I’d text him and say, ‘Alright, I guess it’s going to happen.’ And then it wouldn’t happen. And it wouldn’t happen.

“I never thought the Islanders would fire their coach, so I was surprised when they did. But I’m very happy for Patrick. He’s such a competitor, so passionate about the game.”

Bourque was in Florida on Monday, watching highlights of Roy’s maiden game with the Islanders, a 3-2 overtime win against the visiting Dallas Stars on Sunday.

“They showed Patrick at morning skate, his first day, and I could see him jumping right in,” he said. “Sometimes, when a coach comes in halfway through the season, it’s got to be a tough situation to walk in to. To see how Patrick was teaching, encouraging, yelling during the skate, and then how animated and involved he was during the game, up and down the bench with guys coming off the ice, talking to them … that’s him.

“I always thought it would be an up-and-coming young team where he’d wind up coaching next. Now he’s got a team that’s solid with some good veterans and a nice core that he’s going to be able to work with, a good goaltender, some good things in place.”

Roy Bourque Elias Game 3 Sandford

Ray Bourque and Patrick Roy defend the Colorado Avalanche net against New Jersey’s Patrik Elias during Game 3 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Final.

Bourque, a native Montrealer, is well acquainted with the madhouse that is hockey in his hometown and he fully expects that to be on full boil Thursday when Roy, in just his third game with the Islanders, returns to Bell Centre behind the visitor's bench.

“I think it’s going to be awesome,” Bourque said. “Canadiens fans and everyone in Quebec will welcome Patrick back and let him know that they’re happy to see him in the League, regardless of where it is.

“Patrick in the NHL, in any capacity, is a plus for the League. Especially being who he is and what he’s accomplished in Montreal (Stanley Cup victories in 1986 and 1993), being a French-Canadian, they’ll welcome him back and make him feel very, very special. It's going to be a fun night.”

Bourque has a unique insight into Roy, their friendship forged first on fairways and greens of a Montreal golf course, then as winners of the Stanley Cup with the 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche.

“He’s going to bring passion, just that winning attitude, to the Islanders,” Bourque said. “Patrick wants to win. He wants you to play hard and to play with passion. He’s not asking you to do something he wasn’t doing 24/7 as a player. The accountability … your personal expectations and also having it become the team’s expectations. It’s not that the Islanders don’t have a good culture, I just think he’ll bring even more of that to the organization.”

Roy Bourque Steve Babineau HHoF

Defenseman Ray Bourque (right) and goalie Patrick Roy defend the Colorado Avalanche net against the Boston Bruins.

Bourque and Roy are among the most popular hockey legends in their native province of Quebec. Their friendship took root off the ice before they became teammates with the Avalanche for the final 14 games of 1999-2000 and the following season that saw Bourque win his long-coveted Stanley Cup championship.

It was Bourque’s only championship, Roy’s fourth and last in a season that the goalie has said was a team’s single-minded drive to win the title that had eluded the star defenseman through 20 brilliant seasons with the Boston Bruins.

“The whole experience in Colorado was amazing,” Bourque said. “Patrick and I spent so much time together. We’d never played together but we knew each other because we golfed at the same club in Montreal. We always joked about playing together someday, but we thought it would be in Boston or Montreal. Instead, we ended up together in Colorado.

Roy Bourque

Patrick Roy during his first game coaching the New York Islanders on Jan. 21, 2024, and Ray Bourque before he coached a game during 3ICE – Week 2 at Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on July 5, 2023.

“I’d pick him up for every game, we’d ride together to the airport, we’d sit together on the plane, go to dinner together all the time. So many special and great times that I’ve had with Patrick. Just to get to know him as a teammate and to see his preparation, how he went about his business and why that made him so good, how competitive he was on a daily basis in practice and games.”

In 2001, Bourque was within one loss of again failing to win the Stanley Cup. And then in Game 6 against the Devils in New Jersey, sudden-death for the Avalanche, Roy took matters into his own hands.

“We were down 3-2 in the series going into that game and Patrick was just frigging on fire the first 10 minutes,” Bourque recalled. “They stormed us, but he was just ready for the moment. That’s who he is. It allowed us to score the first goal and get into our game, win it 4-0 and go on to Game 7 in our building that ended up being the big (3-1) win that allowed me to win the Cup.”

Bourque recalls speaking to Roy a decade ago about the latter’s coaching aspirations, which led to a three-season stint with the Avalanche, “then talking more recently about him hopefully getting another opportunity.”

“I think he’s more humble now, and that’s just by experience,” he said. “It’s like a young player coming in as a rookie, learning the ropes, how things are done or how they should be done, how you can improve yourself as a player or a coach.

Roy Bourque alumni

Ray Bourque and Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche defend against the Detroit Red Wings during the 2016 Coors Light Stadium Series Alumni Game in Denver.

“Patrick is a very smart guy. And Lou (Lamoriello, the Islanders president of hockey operations and general manager) is a very smart man. He knew Patrick as a player. They obviously had some good discussions before this hire was done. Lou recognized a lot more what Patrick was all about and what he’s going to bring. I think they’re going to form a great team.

“Lou doesn’t want to hear from somebody who’s not going to be honest or not really tell him what he thinks. When I talk about Patrick, I say, ‘Just be ready. When you ask him a question, be ready for what’s going to come back. He’s going to be totally honest and transparent because that’s who he is.’

“Working with somebody like that, where you know where you stand at any moment, what a benefit. That’s the way it should be. Patrick won’t pull any punches with his GM, coaches or players. He’ll tell you what he thinks. That’s Patrick Roy right there, man.”

With great interest, Bourque will watch his old friend take on new responsibilities. And now, he says happily, their text messages can take a different direction.

“I texted him Patrick again this morning,” he said, laughing. “But this time it was to tell him that he looked way better without a beard and it’s got me thinking about shaving mine.”

Top photo: Ray Bourque and Patrick Roy hoist the Stanley Cup in 2001, having defeated the New Jersey Devils in a seven-game Final.