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The call of the net

Friday, 21.11.2008 / 10:00 AM / News
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The call of the net
MONTREAL – For one generation, the dream was to be like Maurice Richard or Guy Lafleur.  For another, it was all about Patrick Roy.

Before Roy began showcasing his talents in the Canadiens’ crease in 1985, goaltending was generally reserved for the less athletic or, if you prefer, less talented.  That changed quickly with the arrival of the Habs’ netminder, who suddenly had kids across Quebec clamoring to strap on the pads just like their idol.

When Roy decided to hang up his pads after a 19-year NHL career in 2002-03, the league was inundated with stoppers who grew up admiring the Habs’ No. 33.  Just that year alone, there were 29 Quebec native goaltenders lacing up their skates in the NHL.  Even well after his retirement, Quebec goalies continue to populate nets around the league.

Pascal Leclaire, who made his NHL debut in 2003-04, wouldn’t be making saves for the Columbus Blue Jackets if not for Patrick Roy.

“I grew up 20 minutes away from the Forum, always watched the Canadiens on TV.  Patrick is definitely a guy I admired when I was a kid,” said Leclaire.  “It was because of him that I wanted to be a goalie; I wanted to be like him.  He was a superstar, the best player on his team.”

He may have grown up closer to the Colisée than he did the Forum and bled Nordiques blue rather than bleu-blanc-rouge, but even Philadelphia Flyers backstop Martin Biron can’t deny the impact “St. Patrick” had on his own career.

“Because of where I come from, I wasn’t his biggest fan but his impact on other goalies and his style certainly had an influence on me,” admitted the Lac St. Charles native. “I came to Montreal for François Allaire’s goaltending school. There I learned about positioning and all of it came from Patrick and the success he had.  His performances and style influenced a whole new generation of goalies that came through the QMJHL.”

Marc-André Fleury may have been more focused on perfecting his walking skills when Roy won his first Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup in 1986, but the Pittsburgh Penguins netminder grew up with every intention of following in his footsteps.

“When I was young, we would play street hockey and every time I made a save, I pretended I was Patrick Roy,” Fleury said.  “He was one of the first butterfly-style goalies and to this day, I work to try and be like him.  He was a guy I looked up to because he did one thing really well – win.”

Winning.  A desire that followed Roy everywhere, on and off the ice.  Anaheim Ducks backstop Jean-Sébastien Giguère learned that firsthand early on.

“I was probably 16 or 17 years old.  We had the same agent and participated in a golf tournament with all the guys from the agency,” recalled Giguère, now 31.  “He’s really competitive and had made a bet with the other foursomes.  The wager was pretty high.  I was playing with him and I’m not a great golfer.  He was frustrated in the beginning, trying to tell me where to hit the ball.  He finally realized that I was a lost cause.”

Likely the only time in his career Roy conceded defeat.

Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com. Adam Brady, Sam Kasan, Ryan Mulcrone and Shauna Denis contributed to this report.

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