Roy will be rooting for Avalanche in Stanley Cup Final

“I’m really an Avalanche fan,” said Roy, the former Colorado goaltender and coach. “I have so much respect for ‘Landy’ (Captain Gabriel Landeskog) and Nate (MacKinnon).

“It was a privilege to coach these guys. Joe (Sakic, Avalanche’s General Manager) gave me the opportunity. I have so much respect for Joe. He did a very good job building and putting this team together.”

Roy anchored Colorado’s two Stanley Cup championships — 1996, just six months after his stunning December 6, 1995 trade to the Avalanche by the Montreal Canadiens, and 2001, a title most famous for veteran defenseman Ray Bourque and eventually the trophy won the end of a 22-year NHL career.

From left: Patrick Roy with the Stanley Cup after wins with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and the Montreal Canadiens in 1993 and 1986.

Roy also won two championships with the Canadiens — as a rookie in 1986 and again in 1993. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy, voted postseason Most Valuable Player in 1986, 1993 and 2001, the only player to win that award three times. Sakic won it in 1996 with the Avalanche.

Roy retired after the 2002-03 season and returned to Colorado a decade later to step behind the Avalanche bench as a coach and move into the front office as vice president of hockey operations.

Over three seasons after being hired in 2013 by Sakic, who had just been promoted to executive vice president of hockey operations, Roy was 130-92-24. He helped lead Colorado to the Central Division title in 2013–14 by 112 points. That equated to a franchise record and earned him the Jack Adams Award for NHL Coach of the Year.

But Colorado was upset by the Minnesota Wild in Game 7 of their first-round series in 2014 and then missed the Stanley Cup playoffs the next two seasons. Roy abruptly resigned in August 2016, citing philosophical differences with management. He was replaced as coach by Jared Bednar, who guided the Avalanche to their first Stanley Cup Finals this season since Roy’s standout goalie played a big part in the 2001 championship.

From left: defenseman Ray Bourque, coach Bob Hartley, goaltender Patrick Roy and forward Joe Sakic, the team captain, after the Colorado Avalanche’s win of the 2001 Stanley Cup.

Any rift with Sakic appears to have healed, and Roy is hoping his former team will bring the Stanley Cup back to Denver.

He was effusive in his praise for forward MacKinnon, whom he and Avalanche staffers campaigned for in the run-up to the 2013 NHL draft. Colorado ended up choosing the number 1 forward. And he welcomed the defender Kal Makarand claimed “he could become the best defender to ever play the game”.

“At the end of the day, they’re fun to watch, they’re good for the game,” Roy said of MacKinnon and Makar. “They are what our game needs, not only for the pro level but also for the juniors. High pace and this way of playing, these guys are role models for younger players. They will surely take our game to another level and that’s what we need.”

Roy unsuccessfully attempted to connect with Sakic through huge crowds at Canadian legend Guy Lafleur’s funeral in Montreal on May 3.

“So I texted Joe and wished him luck,” he said. “I told him, ‘You guys are fun to watch. It’s very entertaining. The people of Denver are lucky to have such a great team and a team that’s exciting to watch.'”

Video: Patrick Roy won the Stanley Cup four times, Vezinas three times

The same goes for the Champion Avalanche in 1996 and 2001.

“I don’t know if I’ll try to compare Stanley Cups, but 2001 felt very special,” Roy said. “I felt like we played for Ray (Bourque) all year.”

Bourque joined the Avalanche professionally in March 2000 after playing nearly 21 seasons with the Boston Bruins. The trade with powerhouse Colorado was clearly made to give the veteran a shot at winning his first championship.

The Avalanche fell behind in 2000, losing Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals to the Dallas Stars. But when Bourque returned to training camp in the fall, the message was clear to everyone.

“We wanted to win this trophy (2001) for Ray,” said Roy. “We used the term ‘Mission 16’ (for the number of playoff wins it takes to win the Stanley Cup) and from training camp to the playoffs we only went one direction and that was, everyone win evening.

“We knew why Ray came to Denver in 2000. We were all very sad that we couldn’t win the cup this year. His return the next year meant a lot to each of us. I think it gave us all a lot of motivation. One of us trying our best to have the best season.”

It was a historic season for Roy, who surpassed Terry Sawchuk with his 446th regular-season win and became the NHL’s all-time leading goaltender.

“I was very happy, very proud, to get this record, especially since it’s been around for so long (since 1970),” Roy said. “Obviously the rules have changed. In Terry’s time there were draws. Now there’s overtime and penalties. It’s easier for goalkeepers to win now and winning games is what your team wants.”

Roy retired with 551 regular-season wins in the NHL and was later overtaken by Martin Brodeur, who hung up his skates with 691. Marc Andre Fleury currently third with 520. Roy’s top-ranked 151 playoff wins are a long way off; Fleury’s third-placed 92 is the best among active goalies.

“Marc-André is having a great career,” said Roy. “I’m sure he would say what I do: you have to play in good teams with good leaders to be successful and I’ve been very fortunate to have that.”

It wasn’t an easy playoff path for the Avalanche in 2001 after a first-round win over the Vancouver Canucks was on the books. Star center Peter Forsberg lost the team after Colorado’s Game 7 win over the Los Angeles Kings in the second round and was hospitalized almost on the final siren for removal of a ruptured spleen.

“We had enough character and depth to find a way to win,” said Roy. “We made it (won the Conference Finals in five games) against the (St. Louis) Blues and came back in Game 6 of the Finals against the (New Jersey) Devils.”

Indeed, Colorado was eliminated 2-3 to New Jersey in Game 6 and played away.

Roy was still aching after a personal disaster in Game 4.

“I’m not going to lie to you, Game 4 was probably one of the darkest moments of my career,” he recalled. “I went behind the net midway through the third period, the puck went over my stick and the Devils hit an empty net to level the game. We rolled, everything was under control, we drove to a win, then boom! simply that way. They struck late again to win 3-2 and tie the series 2-2, which sent them back to Denver. They won Game 5 and oh my god I felt so miserable coming back to New Jersey and facing elimination.

Roy internally raged a bit and then he picked up the phone.

“I called Ray and said, ‘Ray, give us the best pregame speech ever before Game 6,’ and I’m going to do the big save at the start of the game and we’re going to go back to Denver for Game 7. ‘ Roy said. “Ray was very good with that speech. I remember him saying, ‘Stay with me guys, stay with me.’ He said it over and over, spoke to the group and I think we all got the message, it was nice to come back to win that game (a 4-0 shutout) and then win Game 7.

“When ‘Footer’ (Adam Foote) scored his goal late in the first period in Game 6, I jumped so high I think I almost touched the rink ceiling. I was so happy that we scored 1-0 to lead.

“In the second half, Ville Nieminen and Chris Drury scored and it was like, ‘OK, we’re back in the series.’ But obviously we knew everything was at stake in Game 7. Alex Tanguay scored twice and Joe (Sakic) our third (in a 3-1 win. I won’t lie, it was a very special moment that too win Stanley Cup for Ray.”

Roy was brilliant when he won his third Conn Smythe Trophy. That playoff season, he was 16-7 with a .934 save percentage, 1.70 goals against average and four shutouts. It was his best playoff save percentage and GAA. In 1996 he was 16-6, .921, 2.10 with three shutouts.

Roy and Sawchuk reconnected because they both had an impressive 15-year gap between their first and last Stanley Cup wins – Roy between 1986-2001, Sawchuk between 1952-67.

For now, Roy, general manager and coach of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is looking forward to settling back home and watching the Avalanche compete for the Stanley Cup once again. That Colorado will have been cool for at least 10 days since beating the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Finals is of little concern to the Hall of Fame goalie.

Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy (left) and President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic greet us Nathan MacKinnon her team as the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center in New Jersey.

“I think the boys are hungry and knowing Landy and Nate they’re going to make sure their boys are ready,” Roy said. “I have no doubt they will. Landeskog is a really good captain. He’s a phenomenal leader, he plays a 200ft game, he has a really solid head on his shoulders and I’m sure he does will ensure His teammates are ready.

“I speak from experience, I worked with him there for three years. He was already the leader of the team back then… smart, made good decisions, could talk to the guys. Now he’s even more experienced. And MacKinnon, when he gets on his horse and flies, my God, he’s fun to watch.

“I’m sure they’re on a mission as we were for Ray in 2001. It is impressive. I’m happy for the Denver fans and I’m happy for Joe, he did a very good job. I’ll just put my feet up and watch it on TV. It will be fun. The final is going to be great hockey and it’s going to be great for the game.”

Photos: Hockey Hall of Fame (Jeffrey T. Barnes; Dave Sandford; Chris Relke); Getty Images

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