Sunday, May 18, 2014

Patrick Roy Has a Posse

Patrick Roy is in the conversation for best-ever at his position, the beginning and end of the conversation about "pissed-off goalies", a likely winner of the award for 2013-14's best NHL coach, and the definite winner of an award for great coach-dad for that tremendous moment a few years back when he signaled his goalie son to join in a line brawl, resulting in matching father-son suspensions and an assault charge for the younger Roy, after the dutiful son skated the length of the ice to whale on a guy for 15 seconds while the dude didn't fight back. Patrick Roy is, then, one Hall of Famer who is also a cult figure. And so he gets a posse.

The cult was founded in 1986, when the Montreal Canadiens installed the rookie as their starting goalie for the playoffs. (There's an interesting echo here, as the team had previously pulled the rookie-goalie-as-playoff-starter maneuver in 1971, with a legendary goalie/big white guy/increasingly senile politician named Ken Dryden. It worked, in 1971.) Fifteen playoff wins and one championship later, Roy was named the 1986 playoffs' most valuable player, and stories began to be told about the insane teenager who talked to his goalposts. Three years later, in 1989, Roy and the Canadiens would play for the Cup again, losing to the Calgary Flames in six games. And in 1993, Roy's Canadiens squad won a ridiculous 11 straight playoff games, and a completely implausible 10 consecutive overtime games--including three in the finals. Unsurprisingly, this magic trick was rewarded with another shiny trophy recognizing Roy as the playoffs' best. So far, so good: excellence is an excellent reason to posse up for somebody.

A few years later, Roy was having a shitty night--hey, it happens to the best of us--and his (rookie) coach hung him out to dry, leaving him in a game to allow 9 goals on 26 shots. The legendarily competitive Roy was embarrassed and enraged, so he naturally said "trade me right fucking now!", and the team's novice GM promptly shipped him off to play in Colorado, where, as I can attest, nobody had ever heard of him.

After two more championships (1996 and 2001), another playoff MVP, and a few more records here and there, Roy retired from the NHL. He rather quickly went into public service, becoming a coach widely believed to be barking mad, with the aforementioned Son Issue and a moment in his first game as an NHL coach when he appeared to try to knock down a wall to fist-fight an opposing coach.

What's great is that this was a moment that was all but forgotten after the game, when Roy demonstrated that he's actually not a screaming, violent lunatic. He's actually a great, great boss, even-keeled, generous with praise and careful to balance including everybody while singling out some for specific kudos, willing to be accountable.

On knocking down walls
It's just a normal night. I mean, this is the way I was in the junior level. [...] I guess if I'm asking my players to be intense, I guess I have to be as well.
On winning 6-1
I think we played a good game. I think we could be better defensively. I feel that we have given a little bit too many shots. At the same time, I think we could be better, but one thing I like is that they're backchecking hard. They're coming back, everybody works extremely hard. I thought it was great intensity out there. [...]
Honestly I thought everybody played well. Everybody worked hard, and that's what we said before the game: let's play hard, and that's what our guys did. [...]
Okay, it's only one game. It's a good start. But that's it. [...] Like I said to the guys, we need to remain humble tonight. There's another game coming up on Friday, we're going to have to repeat. The best way to repeat is to stay humble, make sure that they enjoy tonight, but tomorrow come and be ready for a good practice. This is the test--tomorrow morning is the test. If we come in and we're mellow, that means we don't get it. If we come tomorrow ready to work again, and then we bring it on the ice the next night, then I can say that hey, we're in the right direction.
On his goalie
He was outstanding. He was outstanding. I think he's the reason why, the first five minutes I think he kept us in the game, and he made some great saves. [...] Varly was outstanding, at every moment in that game where we had made some mistakes, he was there for us. There's no doubt in my mind he was the first star for our team tonight.
On the end of the game and the fight between the coaches
That should have been a penalty, in my opinion. It's 6-nothing, I don't think this game needs that kind of cheap shot. After that obviously there was some talk from the coaches I guess. But at the same time, what should I do? He put his fourth line on the ice, then I'm not gonna go with my first line, I went with my fourth line. That's it. I'd been matching [lines] all night long, by the way.
And those are traits that get a man a posse: excellence, a hot head, unwillingness to dodge responsibility.

That said, my loyalty to the man is rooted equally in his failings. A showboater with a taste for the spectacular, he singlehandedly cost his team a decisive goal in a playoff game against their nemeses: thinking he had the puck in his glove after he'd gone down on the ice, he raised his glove high, to show everybody "I got this--you can't score on this". The puck, not in his glove at all, ended up in the back of the net. The Avs lost the game, and the next one, a 7-0 blowout that ended the series (and nearly got me in a drunken fist-fight with a coked-up Red-Wings-fan acquaintance who wouldn't stop talking shit that night).

Two years later, the indestructible OT hero, the best playoff, big-money guy in the game's history, lost two straight OT games to lose a playoff series to second-tier franchise the Minnesota Wild. The Avs had been up 3-1 in the series, needing only a single win to close it out and move on. Defeat was plucked, crumb by bloody crumb, from the slavering jaws of victory. (Somehow, a Roy-related playoff loss to the Wild seems particularly relevant, even now. Sigh.)

In the end, Patrick Roy has a posse--and I'm in it--because he's an exemplary human, which is to say that he exemplifies humanity. Wins, losses, rage, telling your boss to go fuck himself, being a good boss yourself, rising to the occasion, completely failing to rise to the occasion, being better than you are, being worse. Being a person. I keep Patrick Roy in mind, and I keep his jersey in my closet, as a reminder that we can all, maybe, earn a posse. We can all end up in the conversation. We can all be the best we can be.

Download your own Patrick Roy Has a Posse sticker sheet here, and check out all the Clear the Crease Posse Members while you're at it!

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