When Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy is behind the bench for Tuesday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, all he has to do is look up and he will see his number 33 jersey hanging from the Bell Centre rafters.
He had the opportunity to do so when he took to the ice for Monday’s practice, am opportunity that may have been lost.
“I forgot,” said Roy after practice. “See how focused I am on the game?”
"Actually, I lied,” he continued. “I looked at it before, just to make sure it's still there. No dust on it."
As a goaltender, Roy spent the first 10 years of his hall-of-fame career with the Canadiens; backstopping the Habs to Stanley Cup titles in both 1986 and 1993. His relationship with the club soured however, when Roy demanded a trade during the 1995-1996 season, and was subsequently dealt to the Avalanche.
Now the fences appear mended, and Roy is set to return to the Bell Centre for the first time as a coach, something that is not lost on Roy.
"For sure, it's special," he said. "I try not to think too much about it, but rather to put the focus on our season.”
And what a season it has been.
With 93 points in 68 games, Colorado currently sits in second place in the Central Division; quite the turnaround from last season, which saw them miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. But in his first season as coach, Roy is quick to credit others for the teams’ success.
"I will never take credit for the success of the team," he said. "It's because of our players that we are where we are today. We are their partners, we provided resources, we will continue to come up with new ideas, but it's the players that deserve the credit for what's happening in Colorado.”
His players, however, may beg to differ.
"Patrick was always a winner, and he's still a winner today," said Avalanche goaltender (and Montreal native) Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who will start Tuesday. "When someone like him arrives, you know you're going to have success because he's always had success. It was motivating."
Not many first year coaches have had immediate success. Far less are in the NHL Hall-of-Fame. Virtually none were goaltenders; save for Roy.
But this doesn’t come as a surprise to the people who have worked with Roy in the past, just ask Marc Crawford, who was behind the bench when Roy won his first of two Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996.
"Patrick was the smartest player I ever coached," said Crawford. "He's close to a genius now; he thinks the game as well as I've ever seen. He taught me a lot. We were on the same page in Colorado. He was the most intelligent guy I'd ever seen."
And now Roy is returning to Montreal, where it all started; something that is not lost upon the Canadiens, who will face off against his current club.
“Patrick Roy is obviously a special player,” said Habs goaltender Carey Price. “He was one of my favorite goalies growing up, and he was the favourite of many in my generation. It’ll be great to have a chance to play against him, even if it’s indirectly.”
The Avalanche lineup will receive a boost, as Paul Stastny is expected to return from a back injury that has kept him sidelined for the past four games. But despite his best efforts, the it is hard to turn the focus away from Roy.
Faceoff is set for 5:30 p.m. MT.