He imposed his style on the game, and legions of hockey fans and goalies everywhere were grateful. It is not just that his method was effective, that the revolutionary quick drop-n-slide of a pad could stone the wickedest snap shot. Roy's way was also fun, dramatic, cocky, marvelous, at times even beautiful. Far beyond the statistics, Patrick Roy entertained us and thrilled us while he emerged so dazzlingly as the best.
Many of hockey's historical experts will tell you that Patrick Roy is the greatest goaltender of all time. With all due respect to the likes of Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Glenn Hall and Dominik Hasek, the stats are convincing.
Roy retired in 2003 as the goaltending leader in regular season games played (1,029), minutes played (60,235), career wins (551), and most career 30-win seasons (13). He won three Vezina trophies, five Jennings trophies, and six All Star nominations. He had a career .910 save percentage and 2.54 GAA, not to mention 66 career shutouts. He is the only goalie in NHL history to win over 200 regular season games with two different teams.
But forget about all the numbers. Unlike many goalies, Patrick Roy's greatness was not about numbers. His greatness lies in moments, in memories.
Most of those memories came in playoff competition. The only numbers Roy cares about are his four Stanley Cup rings, two with Montreal and two with Colorado.
In perhaps his most memorable quote, during the 1996 Western Conference semi-finals between the Colorado Avalanche and the Chicago Blackhawks Jeremy Roenick, who scored on this particular night, said, "I'd like to know where Patrick was in Game 3, probably up trying to get his jock out of the rafters." Roy retorted with his now-famous line, "I can't hear what Jeremy says, because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears."
While he was very good in the regular season, it was in the playoffs that St. Patrick worked his miracles.
Again the statistics are all on his side. He owns records for most career playoff games played by a goaltender (247), minutes played (15,209), most career playoff wins (151), and most career playoff shutouts (23).
To say he was instrumental in each championship is an understatement. He was the first three-time winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff's most valuable player.
Born on the exact same date as Mario Lemieux, Roy started his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens, who drafted him 51st overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft from the Granby Bisons. Right from his rookie season Roy earned his reputation as a special, if cocky, goaltender. He led the Canadiens to an unexpected Stanley Cup championship in his rookie season. At the age of 20 Roy became the youngest player in the NHL's history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
The Canadiens were ecstatic to once again have a French Canadian superstar. Despite not having the same caliber of previous Montreal teams, Roy took the proverbial torch from the likes of Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur and carried Montreal's Stanley Cup hopes on his solitary back.
In 1989, 1990, and 1992 Roy won the Vezina Trophy. He won the Jennings Trophy (least goals allowed) in 1987, 1988, 1989 (all shared with Brian Hayward), 1992, and 2002. He led the league in shutouts and goals against average twice, was named a First Team All-Star three times, a Second Team All-Star twice, and played in eleven All-Star games.
His best performance was saved for 1992-'93. The Canadiens fielded what seemed to be a fairly average team. To remain competitive, Patrick took the team on his back, winning 31 games and entering the playoffs with momentum.
Things did not look promising early on in the 1993 playoffs. The Canadiens lost their first two games to their archrival Quebec Nordiques in the first round. Nordiques goaltending coach Dan Bouchard, who had been Roy's boyhood idol, proclaimed that his team had solved the mighty Roy. These comments seemed to fire up Roy, who responded by winning the next four consecutive games against the Nordiques. Roy didn't stop there. He swept the Buffalo Sabres in the next round, and winning the first three against the New York Islanders to complete an NHL record eleven postseason game winning streak.
Roy met Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings in the finals that year, and spoiled The Great One's Californian championship party. Vivid memories of that series include Roy stoning Luc Robitaille and arrogantly winking at Tomas Sandstrom after another impressive save. In true cocky form, Roy confirmed that during a tight game 2, he told his teammates "just get one, because I'm not going to give them any." And he didn't.
Roy set a record during the postseason with 10 straight overtime wins to capture Montreal's most unexpected Stanley Cup championship in modern times. Needless to say, Roy was once again name the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. His performance that post season may have been the best individual playoffs in hockey history.
All seemed well in Montreal until December 2nd, 1995. After letting in nine goals before being pulled in the third period, he blasted rookie coach Mario Tremblay for leaving him in the game and making him look so bad. Before taking a seat when he was finally pulled, from the bench and in front of television audiences the fiery Roy told team president Ronald Corey that this was his last game in a Canadiens uniform and demanded to be traded. A few days later he was inconceivably traded to the Colorado Avalanche.
Traded along with Mike Keane in return for Andre Kovalenko, Martin Rucinsky and Jocelyn Thibault on December 6, 1995, a new era in the Patrick Roy history book was underway. Joining a team which already boasted Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Claude Lemieux, Roy would guide the former Nordiques to a Stanley Cup title in their first year in Denver.
Part of Canada's Olympic team in 1998, Roy went on to play in eleven All-Star games and won three Vezina Trophies throughout his illustrious career. Early in the 2000-01 season, he surpassed legendary Terry Sawchuk in career wins with a total of 447, a number most fans thought was once untouchable.
His play in Colorado is almost as legendary as his time in Montreal. In particular, the Avs-Red Wings rivalry is a great memory of Roy's career, particularly his fights with goaltenders Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood, and his not-always-successful but always entertaining wandering around the ice with the puck. Perhaps most notable was his Statue-of-Liberty save off of Steve Yzerman. In true showboating form, Roy stood up and raised his glove high in the air to proclaim he had the puck. The only problem was Roy didn't realize the puck was lying in his crease as Brendan Shanahan coyly poked it in.
In 2001 Roy was at his best once again, leading the Avalanche to their second Stanley Cup championship and Roy's fourth. He was also awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for a remarkable third time, and therefore cementing his reputation as the greatest clutch goalie in hockey history.
Although he smirkingly tries to avoid the topic, Roy was one of the few players who really changed the face of hockey.
Firstly, there was his trademark equipment adjustments. Many will credit, or blame, Roy for the NHL's need to crackdown on goaltending equipment by the turn of the century. Roy was known not only to experiment with big padding, but he also liked to wear a grossly oversized jersey. The idea was that while crouching down, his untucked-in-the-back jersey would catch anything that would go through his legs. Others claimed Roy tried to use webbing in his underarms to catch pucks. Roy also experimented with large catching gloves, and cleverly was the first goalie to specifically paint his goalie pads so that the padding nearest to his 5-hole was white. Roy knew that shooters often only have a split second to get off a shot, and this would create an illusion of an opening that did not really exist.
Secondly, Roy perfected the butterfly style of goaltending. Glenn Hall introduced it in the 1950s and 1960s, and Tony Esposito used it with great fanfare in the 1970s, but it was not until Roy's influence that it became the predominant if not only school of goalie thought even until this day.
No where was Roy's impact felt as strongly as in his native Quebec. French-Canadians in particular, maybe even the entire nation of Canada, no longer wanted to be Rocket Richard, Jean Believeau or Guy Lafleur when they grew up. They now wanted to be goaltenders. He made such an impact on the position that not only did they want to be goaltenders, but they wanted to be like Patrick and play the way he played. Suddenly goaltending became the glamour position. No longer was the worst athlete on the youth team pushed into a life of goaltending because of his inability to skate. Now, Quebec coaches had their pick of great athletes to use as the goaltender, each looking to become the next superstar from the province.