1995 is a year of infamy for Montreal Canadiens fans. It was the year Patrick Roy was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. It was less the trade per se (if Wayne Gretzky could be traded then any athlete on the face of this earth can be traded) and more how he left town that left Montrealers with a feeling of being betrayed.
Roy will no doubt go down as one of the greatest goaltenders in the history of hockey. Some already claim — with some justification — he stands above everyone. He was ordained St. Patrick for his angelic playoff of performances where he would literally perform miracles.
However, on December 2, 1995 he acted anything but a saint in the eyes of many. Head coach Mario Tremblay elected to keep Patrick Roy in a game against the Detroit Red Wings after he allowed nine goals. The unwritten rule is that when your star goalie is having an off night you take him out. Sort of like what a manager does with a pitcher who does not have his stuff.
Whatever the motivations were that lead to Tremblay’s decision, it’s how Roy reacted that will stay with me as a sports fan. He was obviously and rightly upset. However, he let his ego get the better of him in full public view. He allowed his emotions to cloud his judgment. After finally being yanked, he walked past Tremblay behind the bench and straight to President Ronald Corey where he said this was his last game with Mario Tremblay as coach of the Canadiens.
A black night indeed. He was soon traded in what is known as “Le Trade.” General Manager Rejean Houle was unfairly forced into it and it turned out to be a bad one for the Habs.
Roy was traded to the Avalanche. Instead of asking for Joe Sakic straight up, they threw in Captain Mike Keane along with #33 in exchange for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky, and Andrei Kovalenko. Three players who never had a significant impact on the Habs let alone the league. It was a steal for the Avalanche who went on to win two Stanley Cups with Roy.
The Roy trade set the Canadiens organization back a few years. It was a deal that was triggered by Roy’s impetuous outburst. Houle should have been more patient, but hindsight is always 20/20. The day they announced the trade I was listening to the radio with my brother before leaving for school. We could not believe it.
Roy remains unapologetic about that day. He felt justified. I think otherwise. Especially considering he wishes to one day return to the Montreal Canadiens family. The reality is that he alone was responsible for what happened that night. He could have kept his cool. Who knows? Maybe the Habs would have won two cups with him instead of the Avs. We’ll never know. What we do know is that Roy ripped the hearts of many Canadiens fans.
He has to make amends with the fans first. Then perhaps we can consider his return. He lost his cool once before in front of a live audience — what’s to say he wouldn’t do the same with important decisions within the Canadiens organization? Indeed, all evidence seems to indicate that Roy remains the supreme egoist he always was. While an effective coach, he has been involved in some scuffles in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The Canadiens organization for one reason or another has always earned the scorn of former players from Geofferion to Richard to Lafleur. In the case of Roy, it’s hard to see, no matter how hard one tries, that he was right all along. I still feel the same now as I did then. The onus was on him to handle it better. It should have been done behind the scenes and away from the screens to be broadcast like a cheap opera. Everyone deserved better — the fans, the Habs, and above all, Patrick Roy and his legacy.