The Montreal Canadiens held a packed press conference today at 3PM in order to announce that on November 22nd, 2008, Patrick Roy's #33 will be raised to the rafters.
Love him or hate him, there's no denying what this goaltender has meant to the Canadiens' organization over the years. The winningest goaltender in NHL history was emotional yet seemingly proud to accept this prestigeous honor and admitted it would be a very emotional night for him on that evening's jersey retirement.
5 time Jennings trophy winner, 4 with the Habs, the only goaltender to ever win 3 Conn Smythe trophies, 2 with the Habs, according to Jacques Demers of RDS, "He is the best goalie in recent history. Listen, to win a Stanley Cup takes a team effort, but Patrick was always the go to guy, the leader in the room." Demers went on to say "I mean, in the 93 series, we won 10 straight overtime games and Patrick was the reason for all of them."
Roy does have his share of favorable stats: 1029 games played-most in the NHL, 551 wins-most in the NHL. His 289 wins as a Hab put him second in Habs history, behind Jacques Plante who's #1 awaits Roy's #33 in the rafters. He was impressive during the playoffs as well with a record of 70 wins in 114 games.
Flanked by club president Pierre Boivin and team owner George Gillett, Roy was visibly humbled and appeared very relieved to see this part of his career be resolved. "I spent 10 years here in Montreal and have nothing but great memories" said Roy during his acceptance speech. "I was already very proud to be associated with the 44 other Canadiens players in the Hockey Hall of Fame but now that my number will join the other 14 at the Bell Centre is really special. It will be a very emotional night for me, for sure."
Roy went on to say that he was very glad to see that the Canadiens still created a big family atmosphere ensuring that all players present and past feel like a big part of that family.
While certain events during Roy's tenure as a Hab as well as in his personal life have perhaps tarnished some people's opinions as to whether he deserved to have his jersey retired, however his on ice performance should never be questioned as it is arguably, highly unlikely the Canadiens would have won their last 2 Stanley Cups back in '86 and '93. Heck, if we started looking at every player that was entered into the Hall of Fame, regardless of the sport and decided to strip them of the honors based on actions outside their respective arenas, well we would definitely have our work cut out for us now, wouldn't we?
When questioned about his departure from the Habs following that fateful night against Detroit when he let in 9 goals and got into a on bench argument with then coach Mario Tremblay, Roy said that it was not how he envisioned his departure from Montreal and that it was harder to do than one would think. He also stated on many occasions that there is not much one can do about the past and would like everyone to turn the page and that he is honored to be back in the Montreal Canadiens family.
In his introductory speech to the media, Gillett used words such as "delight", "brilliant" and "fun to be around" in describing his numerous contacts with Roy as a season ticket holder for the Avalanche, on the golf course and on a more private level. Roy was quick to thank his team-mates and friends in helping him through his accomplishments and in response to his 10 straight playoff overtime wins, which Demers kept bringing up, Roy was quick to quip, "yeah, but in those 10 games, I didn't score any of the goals."
As luck would have it, I will be attending that game on the 22nd of November when the Canadiens meet the Boston Bruins and for what Patrick Roy has done for the NHL and more importantly the Montreal Canadiens, I will be standing when he is name is announced and he takes to the ice one last time as a Montreal Canadien.