Saint Patrick does it again
Some things never change. Patrick Roy is now the toast of Canadian junior hockey, 20 years after topping the NHL as a rookie with the Canadiens in 1986.
MONTREAL - Only days after the 20th anniversary of his leading the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup as an unproven 20-year-old rookie in the spring of 1986, Patrick Roy mirrored the feat as a 40-year-old rookie coach, guiding the Quebec Remparts to the 2006 Memorial Cup.
With an all-too-familiar gleam still in his eye, Roy simply did what he's always done-beat the odds, seize an opportunity and come up big when it mattered most.
His trophy case already weighed down by his Stanley Cups (four), Conn Smythe Trophies (three), Vezina Trophies (three), and even a Calder Cup as AHL champion, Roy finally got his hands on the pesky piece of hardware that eluded him as a teenager.
Truth be told, the Quebec junior ranks weren't always so kind to Roy. Over his three seasons with Granby that began in 1982-83, the QMJHL's Bisons finished well below the .500 mark every year, reaching the postseason only once. In his only trip to the playoffs, Roy and the Bisons were swept in four straight by Mario Lemieux and the Laval Voisins in 1983-84; until recently, that was the closest Roy had ever come to the Memorial Cup.
Part-owner of the Remparts since 1997, Roy took over as the team's GM upon his retirement from the NHL following the 2002-03 season. After seeing his Remparts stumble out of the blocks at 1-4 this season, Roy made the decision to replace Eric Lavigne as head coach, sparking a turnaround that saw Quebec steamroll to a 52-16-1-1 mark, only one point behind Moncton for the overall league-lead. The Remparts, of course, then got the last laugh against Ted Nolan's Wildcats in the championship final.
The Memorial Cup triumph was the first for the Remparts since 1970-71, when Guy Lafleur led Quebec to the pinnacle of junior hockey. Right by Lafleur's side every step of the way that year was former linemate and current Canadiens assistant general manager Andre Savard.
Despite being a first-time coach, Roy was obviously paying close attention while playing under no fewer than four coach-of-the-year winners over of his 19-year NHL career; Jacques Lemaire, Pat Burns, Jacques Demers and Marc Crawford earned a combined eight Jack Adams Trophies.
The list of other former high-profile NHLers to have led a team to the Memorial Cup from behind the bench is a short one that also includes such notables as Dale Hunter (London Knights, 2005), Brent Sutter (Red Deer Rebels, 2001) and Walter "Turk" Broda (Toronto Marlboros, 1956, 1957). Broda's road to the Memorial Cup most mirrors Roy's, with the legendary Maple Leafs netminder having led Toronto to five Stanley Cups before going on to coach the Marlboros to back-to-back junior titles.
Roy also becomes the third Habs player to have managed the rare feat of lacing them up in the NHL before winning the Memorial Cup as a coach. Billy Reay was the first to do it when he, along with Sam Pollock, guided Dickie Moore and the Junior Canadiens to the national junior crown in 1949-50. Canadiens defenseman Bob Turner then turned the trick with his hometown Regina Pats in 1973-74, after making history by winning five straight Stanley Cups with Montreal from 1956 though 1960.
Listening to the Remparts players speak in the days leading up the championship game in Moncton, one could sense they all believed that with Roy leading the way, they simply couldn't lose. Bob Gainey or Guy Carbonneau of the 1986 and 1993 Canadiens, or Joe Sakic of the 1996 or 2001 Avalanche would likely know the feeling.
Adjusting to life after hockey is never easy. Now three years removed from having stopped his last NHL puck, there are many things Roy will have to learn to live without. Winning, however, clearly isn't one of them.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com