Johnson: Hartley’s memory bank builds a good picture of Roy, possibly the new Avs coach
Flames bench boss sets the record straight on 1999 VCR/TV smashing incident
Bob Hartley would like to clear up the collateral damage totals. When Patrick Roy infamously went all Rambo in Anaheim, he did not make kindling of two VCRs and two TVS using his goal stick in the coaches’ room.
“Only one TV and one VCR,” corrects the first-hand eyewitness to accounts.
On that night in 1999, Hartley’s first year, game tied, the new coach pulls the already-legendary Roy — inserting backup Craig Billington — in order not to burn his timeout on the tail end of a Colorado Avalanche 5-on-3 and give his front-line troops, Sakic, Forsberg, Drury et al, a bit of a breather.
Roy, in pursuit of Terry Sawchuk’s all-time wins records, is out of the net all of eight seconds, one shift. But that’s enough time for the rested Avs to pocket the game winner. Billington, therefore, is credited with the W.
“Well, Patrick came into the office to talk to me right after the game,” recalls the coach of the Calgary Flames, on the phone from a scouting/fact-finding mission at the Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, “and we were already on our way out to the bus. I told him — he was obviously upset — that we’d talk about it the next morning. But I guess the next morning was too late for him.
“I’m walking out the door, I turn, and Bing! Bing! Bang!, the TV and the VCR took the worst of it.”
Speculation is mounting that Roy — never one shy about laying his emotions bare — as the next coach of the Colorado Avalanche is virtually a done deal. If hired, he’d be no mere sycophantic sidekick to new VP of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic; no decorated alumnus treading on his name.
Patrick Roy has certainly paid his dues to reach this point, ridden the buses, scraped plastic remnants off the bottom of box lunches, spending the last eight seasons behind the Quebec Remparts’ bench, compiling a 307-138-32 record and one Memorial Cup.
He never suffered through a losing season in Quebec.
The willingness to get down, roll up his sleeves, rather than play the grand star and merely except to be gifted a high and mighty position is no surprise to those who know him.
Hartley recalls sitting around his office every day for 10-15 minutes during their time together, both at the Pepsi Center and on the road, Roy — having just purchased a share in the Remparts with some buddies — in a chair, cribbing notes. They’d each munch on a blueberry muffin and break down VHS tapes of the juniors in action.
“He was always very curious.
“Even during practices, most of the goalies, when we’d be explaining a drill, they’d wander off, drink water or not pay attention. Patrick was always one of the first guys in the line by the boards, on his knees in front and he would listen. Then the next morning, when we’d be having our blueberry muffin, he’d ask me about the drills. He’d say ‘I like this but I don’t understand the purpose. Explain it to me.’
“That’s Patrick. Even at the top of the game, the best goalie in the world, an icon, he wanted to know more. That always fascinates me about Patrick.”
The two men have stayed in contact. Hartley reckons once every couple of weeks they connect. Roy sends his old mentor clips for analysis over the Internet.
Great players seldom made the transference to great coaches in any sport — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wayne Gretzky, Bart Starr, Magic Johnson, Diego Maradona, Boom Boom Geoffrion pop immediately to mind — but the list goes on and on.
A time-worn theory is that their innate gifts while playing leave them impatient with mere mortals, that while the act of creation came easily to them, the drudgery of the process for the rest of humanity invariably wears them down. Great players are often creatures of the air, not of the earth.
“He’s gonna be different than a lot of them because along with a lot of talent he had a fantastic attention to detail,” predicts Hartley. “Coaching is all about details. Patrick never sat on his talent. He’d have a bad game and I’d be driving home from the game with a smile on my face because I knew we’d have a good chance to win the next 10. The next morning the lion would come out of his cage and he’d be on the ice 45 minutes before everybody else, he’d have sat in the video room an hour before everybody else, watching the goals he’d given up, punching the walls. When we started on the ice, he’d skate by me and say ‘I won’t give up that kind of goal again for a long, long time.’ And all I’d say is: ‘I know.’
“He’s the best winner I’ve ever coached. It’s not for me to say what will happen, but for him, in Colorado, it’s a natural. Especially now, with Joe.”
And as to the fear that his hair-trigger emotional trigger might be Roy’s undoing at the top level?
Well, his old boss, the first-hand eyewitness to the infamous Bing! Bing! Bang! back in Anaheim over two decades ago, isn’t in the least concerned.
“He doesn’t accept mediocrity,” says Bob Hartley. “That’s the reason why some people like him and some people don’t. There’s only one way with Patrick and that’s the right way. Patrick is a perfectionist. That scares some people.
“In our business, there are people who are in it to survive and people who are in it to win. I’m in that last group and so is Patrick. If it’s black, he’s gonna say it’s black and if it’s white he’s gonna say it’s white. At the end of the day, if you let everyone around you tell you what to do, what to think and the way it’s gonna be, maybe you shouldn’t be there.
“Patrick is a very emotional guy. That’s what made him special. He wants to be the best. He wants to win. You tell me what’s the matter with that?
“I’d rather try to live with a guy who wants to win too bad than try to convince a guy that losing is not OK.”
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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