Saturday, November 22, 2008

Reconciliation night for Patrick Roy

Saturday night marks the final turning of the page on the last outstanding twist of the Patrick Roy saga.

Roy the one time King of the Forum, will be feted on Saturday night as the Montreal Canadiens honour his legacy (mainly the good points we suspect) in what is sure to be one of the more emotional of ceremonies that the Habs have put on over the years.

As Montreal prepares to launch its year of celebration marking the centennial of the storied franchise, a bit of fence mending was required on one of the last unresolved issues of the last 100 years.

The Roy story is now part of the legendary fabric of Les Canadiens, the young man from the Quebec City area, who like many before him travelled down the road to the centre of Quebecois culture, rose to near mythical standards during his time with the Canadiens.

From his first Stanley Cup victory of 1986 and a second one in 1993 (the last one the Habs would claim), to the now infamous departure scene of December 2, 1995, Roy has always been on the minds of Habs fans.

His parting with the Canadiens following an embarrassing shelling at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, when he gave up nine goals and fumed at then head coach Mario Tremblay, stopping by the perch of Candiens President Ronald Corey (who at the time sat directly behind the Canadiens bench) and advising him that he would never play for the Habs again.

While some thought that the bluster and emotion would pass, the shockwaves would soon radiate around Quebec when Roy was quickly traded to the Colorado Avalanche, a team which in a fascinating twist of fate had recently relocated from Roy’s hometown of Quebec City.

The acquisition of Roy would be the final piece of a Stanley Cup puzzle and the assembly of one of the most dominating of teams of that era in Colorado and would also coincide with the slide of the Habs a onetime dynasty, suddenly mortal and part of the pack of also rans for the most part.

Interestingly enough in the end as Roy returns to Montreal to receive his accolades much has changed for the fable franchise. They have long since moved out of the Forum, where the ghosts of December 5 will forever haunt the hallways of the multiplex that it became. Ronald Corey and Mario Tremblay are no longer part of the fabric of the Canadiens and the new ownership of George Gillett, is set to bring to an end the longest unfinished chapter in the Canadiens lengthy history.

There were a few unresolved issues to deal with before the planning could begin, last springs ugly junior hockey brawl which featured Roy seeming to urge his goaltender son to head down the ice to pummel the opposition number once again highlighted his mercurial temper.

Mindful of imagery, some suggested that honouring the former goaltender after such an incident was not right, it was counsel that in the end was not accepted and once the dust had settled and the fines had been paid, the planning for Roy’s return was underway.

The Bell Centre will welcome the prodigal son back to the family on Saturday night , there may be a few who hold a grudge over what some perceive as Roy’s abandonment of the home side, but we suspect they will be a minority voice probably not heard from much.

Time they say heals all wounds, much time has passed since Roy took that final skate on Montreal ice, a not so slow burn the led into the tantrum that shook a franchise,

It will be but a footnote to Saturday’s celebration, instead it will be the Stanley Cups, the Conn Smythe trophy success, the all star nominations and the final beatification of St. Patrick.

Saturday marks an Exorcism and naming of the saints all in one night, it’s not a surprise that it’s one of the hardest of tickets to come by and has been since the celebration was announced.

As the Habs prepare to celebrate that 100 years of history and embark on a new century of excellence, they bury the last of the ghost of thirteen years ago. The time seems right for rapprochement, and Saturday night will finally return a long lost icon to the long list of legends that make up hockey’s most storied franchise.

With Saturday’s celebration but hours away, here are a few of the features that review a most remarkable career.

Boston Globe-- He changed game on the fly
CBC Sports-- Patrick Roy nearly left Montreal in a much different way
CBC Sports-- Reflections on Roy
Globe and Mail-- Two routes to the rafters
Globe and Mail-- Roy comes full circle

National Post-- Roy preparing for emotional night
New York Times-- No. 33’s Top 10 Moments: A Look Back at Patrick Roy’s Colorful Career
ESPN Hockey Blog-- A CliffsNotes run through his career (yes, there are pictures!)
ESPN-- As Roy finally comes home to Montreal, that 'one night' will be forgotten

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