|Wednesday, May 28
Roy surpassed Sawchuk as best ever
By Darren Pang
Special to ESPN.com
Patrick Roy's legacy is very clear; there is no gray area. He goes down as the greatest goaltender who has ever played.
Terry Sawchuk has been unanimously considered the greatest goaltender ever, but Patrick Roy has surpassed everything that he did. In the four Stanley Cups that Roy won, he was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner three times. When his team needed him, he was a difference-maker. He was a superstar in longevity, wins and championships, and that's why he'll be known as the greatest.
Roy will also be known for his influence on the game. French-Canadians, maybe even the entire nation of Canada, no longer wanted to be Guy Lafleur when they grew up. Not Jean Beliveau, and maybe not even Mario Lemieux either. They now wanted to be goaltenders. It was that simple. He made such an impact on the position that not only did they want to be goaltenders, but they wanted to be like Patrick and play the way he played.
He wasn't always a perfect butterfly goalie. He was a flounderer early on, to the point where Jacques Plante, the Montreal Canadiens goalie coach when Patrick was in juniors, told management that Roy probably couldn't play in the NHL because he was too stubborn and all over the place. But he was so persistent and so into making himself better that he made it work.
Glenn Hall first did the butterfly style, then Tony Esposito. But it really became Patrick Roy: Keep your legs open, let the shooter see the hole, then go down into the butterfly and close it off. Move out from your post to the top of your crease, keep your shoulders big, give them the five-hole, make another great save. Over time, that style leads to longevity. It's a great positional style; you're not floundering. I think that's why other goaltenders wanted to be like Patrick Roy, knowing it was a successful style. They believed they could last a long time and maybe get to the NHL using that style.
Of course, you can't mention Roy without mentioning Francois Allaire. Over his 20 years of coaching, Francois has learned a great deal about the position. He's perfected it as much as it can be perfected. In the early stages, he had Patrick, so they both learned together. Patrick was the foundation of their success together -- the recipe was there, and Patrick was good.
I'm sure Francois learned a lot about a goalie being a leader, having that aura, how he carries himself, how to have swagger, how to rebound after a bad game or a bad goal. I'm sure Francois has passed on that trait from student to student. Everyone wants to know, "What's Patrick thinking before this type of game?" "How did he handle that kind of goal?" And when Francois can delve in and grab that information from Patrick and pass it on to his students, that's a big advantage.
The one thing about Roy that always comes to mind is how perceptive he is and how much he pays attention to what is being said about him. There were a number of times when a television analyst would be critical of his play, and he would make a point of discussing it with the person the next time he saw him. He'd take exception to what was being said, which I find interesting because you wouldn't think such a great player would be concerned about it. But he wanted to keep the record straight. If someone said he let in a bad goal, he would explain to them later why it wasn't -- he'd go through the play and explain to them why he was positioned where he was and what he was thinking.
Like all great athletes who think the game, Roy was an innovator. There is a lot of talk how large the goalie equipment is. I remember early on, maybe 1992 or '93, being in the locker room and looking at Patrick's goalie pants. We started to have a discussion about them because he had this big piece, like an inch-and-a-half block of thick Styrofoam, sewn on the outside of his pants.
So I asked him. He didn't want to make a scene about it, but he had caught a few potential goals with the pants. He had one on the inside as well; he wanted to change things because he had let a goal go in through that area. That was part of what led to limits in goaltending equipment -- a reaction to an innovation that no one else had thought of.
My first NHL game was in the Montreal Forum against Patrick. To be honest, when I was playing against him, there was no doubt in my mind I could beat him. My thoughts weren't about how great he was; I was a goalie to. He shut me out 3-0. He was named first star, and I was named second star. I played against him three times. In fact, I told him just this year, "I once tied you 5-5, you know." And his response was: "I hope that that wasn't a highlight of your career." He had me laughing. I lost the third one 4-3 in Montreal, as well. I played him close.
Patrick is known for not talking on the day of a game -- at least not hockey. It was the morning skate before a really big game -- a Game 7 against San Jose -- and media availability was over. The Avalanche PR director was telling everyone to leave the locker room, but Patrick pulled me aside into another office and waved him off saying, "It's OK." I thought he wanted to talk to me about something I said, or maybe something had happened. Instead, he asked me about the putting green I put in my backyard. That's why I enjoyed being around him. We both have two passions, goaltending and golf.
I'm disappointed Patrick is retiring, although it was obvious. When someone says "90 percent sure," you have a pretty good idea which way the guy is leaning. If he was going to keep playing, he would have just said, "I'm going to play."
But I'm selfishly disappointed. I enjoyed being around Patrick. He thinks the game, he always has an idea about something, he always wants to talk to you about something -- a goaltender, a move, equipment, a shooter, a golf course, a putting green. There was always something. I just thought, in the great job that I have, that I could be on a Patrick Roy Farewell Tour. I could see him along the way and spend some time with him, and that he'd have one more chance to win with his team. All in all, I'm disappointed, and that's only a selfish thing.
Darren Pang, a former goaltender with the Chicago Blackhawks, is a hockey analyst for ESPN.