No. 33 not fit to be retired

 

The 14 banners hang in the Bell Centre rafters carrying the names and retired numbers of legendary players who for so many years contributed so much to making the Canadiens a team with a mystique for winning.

 
 
 

The 14 banners hang in the Bell Centre rafters carrying the names and retired numbers of legendary players who for so many years contributed so much to making the Canadiens a team with a mystique for winning.

Great names. Great players. Great human beings.

The game plan is to add one more next season when this one-of-a-kind franchise celebrates its centenary. I can't crawl into the minds of the people responsible for making the selection, so I have no idea whether (a) it has been discussed and (b) who he is. What I can tell you is that I haven't heard any name other than Patrick Roy.

Yeah, that Patrick Roy ... the one who led the Canadiens to Stanley Cups in 1986 and 1993.

The Patrick Roy who coached the Quebec Remparts to the Memorial Cup in 2005-06.

The Patrick Roy whose son, Jonathan, a backup goaltender with the team, was suspended by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for seven games on Tuesday after skating the length of the ice to administer an ugly, vicious beating on Chicoutimi goaltender Bobby Nadeau during last Saturday's playoff game.

It occurred after the Remparts fell behind 7-1.

Remparts co-owner, general manager and head coach Roy denies it, but many people who were there insist the horror show took place at the urging of his father. At any rate, the QMJHL suspended Roy for five games for "failing to control his players," and police have been asked to launch an investigation that could lead to criminal charges.

I have no way of knowing if the Canadiens already have decided to retire Roy's number. If they have, time is on their side and what they must do is revisit the decision. If they have, Canadiens owner George N. Gillett Jr. and team president Pierre Boivin should know it's a bad decision - and has been from the start. If they have, what they must do is look long and hard at it and then decide whether retiring his No. 33 is good for the game and for the organization.

It is not. In my view, Roy abdicated his rights to that honour with his capitulation to irrationalism on Dec. 2, 1995, when a stunned Forum crowd saw him allow nine goals on 26 shots in an 11-1 meltdown to the Detroit Red Wings. It was only then that he was taken out of the game by coach Mario Tremblay.

Anyone who was there or viewed the game on TV can still see a furious Roy shouldering his way past Tremblay to Canadiens president Ronald Corey sitting in the first row behind the players' bench, leaning over and telling him he had played his last game with the team. That film clip has been shown over and over again following last Saturday's hockey version of road rage - and for good reason. It was unprofessional and a gross disrespect for the sweater he wore. Four days later, he was shipped to Colorado.

Roy was a man of many faces throughout his brilliant career. Pleasant one minute, a mean, arrogant and unforgiving SOB the next. The Patrick Roy who came to play and to win every night could be abrasive, controlling and vindictive, but that doesn't diminish his accomplishments. His NHL-high 551 wins speak for him, as do his four Stanley Cups (two with the Canadiens and two with Colorado). So do his three Conn Smythe trophies and three Vézinas.

Can anyone forget the night in 1986 when Roy stopped the first 13 shots he faced in a conference final overtime game against the New York Rangers? There he was, a 20-year-old rookie, turning aside at least a half dozen spectacular scoring opportunities by the Rangers - until Claude Lemieux scored the winner with the Canadiens' first shot. I still remember it as the best playoff overtime performance by a goaltender.

Fast-forward to 1993. The Canadiens lost the first two games in Quebec, the first in overtime. They won the next four, two of them in overtime. More importantly, the Canadiens won eight more games in OT en route to their most recent Stanley Cup to set playoff records for the most overtime wins in one season and the most consecutive overtime wins.

Those were on-ice moments to cherish, but there have also been off-ice issues that people can't forget or forgive. Ugly moments. Controversial moments. Disgusting moments such as Saturday's brawl during which Roy's son continued punching a defenceless Nadeau after he had been wrestled to the ice.

In Colorado, Roy got into an altercation with a Colorado Springs man at a hotel where Avalanche players and their wives were having a team party. They began shoving each other over an interruption in the music at the in-house disco. The case was settled out of court.

Early in the 1998-99 season, a furious Roy smashed two television sets and a VCR in the visiting coaches' office in Anaheim. The reason: He wasn't credited with a victory because he was lifted by first-year coach Bob Hartley. Even though he didn't face one shot, backup Craig Billington got the win because he was in the nets when the winning goal was scored.

Roy lost it again when the Denver Post reported the incident, and falsely accused Valeri Kamensky of leaking the story. That led to a lengthy meeting between Roy, Kamensky, the player's agent and reporter Adrian Dater, who wrote the story.

The most publicized incident during Roy's years in Colorado occurred during the 2000-01 season when his wife called 911 after a domestic dispute. Dater reported at the time that Michèle Roy told police her husband "ripped two doors off their hinges at their home" and she was "afraid of what her husband might do when she dialled 911." Roy was charged with misdemeanour criminal mischief, but a couple of days later she called the charges "ridiculous." The case was dismissed. (The Roys are now divorced.)

Controversy has been a recurring theme with Roy during his career, and yet I also have seen him in his best moments when his gentleness moved people to tears. Roy surely has forgotten it, but I still remember one incident that left me giddy with pleasure.

It happened following a Habs practice in Quebec City. There was a game to be played that night, but now only Roy remained on the ice waiting for a 10-year-old to join him. The boy was born to pain, and lived with it bravely - he had this dream of going one-on-one with his idol, Roy. What could be greater than to score a goal on Patrick Roy?

So there they were at the Quebec Coliseum: Roy skating in little circles, sending up small shivers of ice pellets, rattling the blade of his stick on the ice before settling into a crouch in his crease, looking every inch like a guy in the moments before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. The boy's mother looked on nervously watching her child who hadn't smiled or laughed nearly often enough in his young life.

"Okay ... I'm ready," Roy finally yelled. "Show me your best."

It took a long time for the boy, skating on his matchstick legs, to close the 15 feet separating him from Roy's crease. A wobbly shot ... a desperate lunge from Roy and ... goal! Roy slammed his stick on the ice in mock anger.

"Try that again," he muttered at the boy, who by now had a reason to smile. "I'll bet you can't do that again."

Another wobbly shot. Another goal. Ten minutes of goal after goal followed - and after each one the boy would raise his stick skyward, his face lighting up with smiles that eventually grew into a delighted laugh. His mother looked on from her Coliseum seat - and cried.

"That was a nice thing you did this morning," I told Roy later that day. "It must have been hard."

"It was easy," Roy said.

rfisher@thegazette.canwest.com

- - -

Longer suspension needed, reader says

We asked readers to go to

montrealgazette.com/soundoffto share their views on the penalties meted out to Patrick and Jonathan Roy. Here is a tiny sample of the many responses we've received so far.

From Barbara:

This was disgusting, bullying behaviour. Frustration and anger are no excuse for beating up an opponent in any game or sport on the planet in this day and age. Ban him for two years, fine him many thousands of dollars, and send him to anger management school. Don't let him back until he has learned his lesson that hockey is a game/sport and good sportsmanship is a requirement.

From Jason Kennedy:

I don't condone the actions of any involved but at the same time I've played the game. This happens at a much younger age than these kids. I've been there and done it 20 years ago. For those who have played the game, think about what happened when you were a kid. For those who haven't played the game, don't talk about what you don't know.

You can read all the comments and post your own by going to

montrealgazette.com/soundoff

 
 
 
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