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Au Revoir Roy, a Hockey Icon

After 18 seasons in the NHL and four Stanley Cups, the game's winningest and most influential goaltender will announce his retirement today.

May 28, 2003|Helene Elliott | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Patrick Roy was a 20-year-old known mostly for talking to his goal posts until he led the Montreal Canadiens to the 1986 Stanley Cup championship and began to forge a reputation as a clutch goaltender. It's fitting, then, he chose to announce his retirement today, between Games 1 and 2 of the Cup finals between the Mighty Ducks and the New Jersey Devils and at the time of year he long claimed as his own.

The Colorado Avalanche has called a news conference for today in Denver, where Roy will say he will walk away from the game he energized for 18 seasons and changed with his athleticism and butterfly style. His success with the Canadiens and later the Avalanche, which acquired him in 1995 after he had a public falling-out with then-Montreal coach Mario Tremblay, inspired thousands of kids in Quebec to play goal and copy his style.

Among his most fervent admirers is Duck goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who displays in the basement of his home in Blainville, Canada, a stick signed for him by Roy. One of the most cherished possessions of Giguere's family is a picture of a 12-year-old Jean-Sebastien with Roy, then a member of the Canadiens.

"It'll be sad for hockey," Giguere said of Roy's departure. "He is a great goalie, probably the best who ever played."

Giguere is flattered by comparisons to Roy, but shuns them.

"Obviously Patrick Roy did great things," Giguere said, "but I don't want to be known as another Patrick Roy."

Others have copied Roy but few may equal him.

Durable and excitable, Roy appeared to be a bundle of nerves because of his habit of whacking his posts with his stick -- mostly to establish his location -- and his shifting and fidgeting during stoppages. However, thanks in part to the tutelage of goaltending guru Francois Allaire, Roy developed into a technically solid goalie and pressure performer like few before him.

Roy, 37 and troubled in recent years by arthritic hips, holds the NHL records for most regular-season victories (551), games played by a goalie (1,029), playoff victories (151), playoff games played (247) and playoff shutouts (23). He's also the only player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs three times: he won it with the victorious Canadiens in 1986 and 1993 and with the triumphant Avalanche in 2001. He played on a fourth Cup winner in Colorado in 1996.

He started slowly this season but gained strength as the playoffs approached, going unbeaten in 26 of his final 30 starts and becoming the first goalie to play 60,000 minutes in his career. His 2.18 goals-against average ranked sixth in the NHL and his 35 wins ranked fourth.

However, the Avalanche was upset in the first round of the playoffs by the Minnesota Wild, losing a seventh game at home in overtime. Fueled by his actions of putting his Denver-area home for sale and buying a home in Florida, speculation immediately arose Roy might retire. He said he was "90% sure" of his decision but planned to withhold an announcement until after the playoffs.

Roy holds a one-third interest in the Quebec Remparts junior team in his hometown, Quebec City. He was there last weekend for the Memorial Cup tournament, which crowns the champion of Canadian junior hockey, and went on the ice to lead drills. He also offered observations to the coaches from the press box via walkie-talkie and brought the team a $1,000 fine when he broke a league rule and entered the video replay booth after Kitchener scored a disputed goal against the Remparts.

He told reporters last week he would carefully consider his future because he didn't want to act hastily and regret it later. "I think it's important when you've played 18 years, you have to take your time," he said. "You have to be patient and you have to make sure it's the right decision."

He added: "The important factor for me is to find out if the tank is empty. I know I can still play at a high level in the NHL."

However, he has also said he was eager to be able to follow the hockey career of his oldest son, Jonathan, a goalie who will play junior hockey in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League next season.

Roy was to earn $8.5 million next season. He will instead get a $1-million bonus and will leave behind standards that are sure to last for years.

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Staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this report.

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Patrick Roy Profile

Colorado's Patrick Roy holds NHL records for most regular-season victories (551), games played by a goalie (1,029), playoff victories (151), playoff games (247) and playoff shutouts (23). He's the only player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs three times: with the Stanley Cup champion Canadiens in 1986 and 1993 and with the champion Avalanche in 2001. Won fourth Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996. Played in 10 NHL All-Star Games. Won the Vezina Trophy (annual award given to the top goalkeeper as voted by NHL general managers) in 1989, 1990, 1992.

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