Sunday, November 12, 2006

Jacques Demers on Roy

With Patrick Roy's imminant Hall Of Fame induction, many tributes have poured forth from those associated with his during the course of his extraordinary career. Former Habs coach Jacques Demers and current coach Guy Carbonneau, who remains close friends with the former netminder, had much to say in a variety of Montreal based dailies over the weekend. Guy Lafleur, a likeminded dropper of shocking declarations, weighed in with his take on Roy's Latendresse comments. Perhaps, I'll get around to that at some post down the line.

Carbonneau for his part spoke about the hour drives he and Roy took from their Ile - Bizard homes to the Forum - talking hockey all the while as students of the game. They would analize the evenings oposition, go over strategies, exchange ideas and perspectives, all the way to their dressing room stalls, seated next to each other. Carbonneau made reference to Roy's leadership and noted that as captain he passed many of the goalies thoughts and observations along to team mates. Roy felt that not being able to be captain himself would hinder his ability to get things across.

Demers stated that Roy had a profound impact upon his life and that his performances in the 1993 playoffs allowed his to savour his only Stanley Cup championship. The former coach testified to Roy's leadership abilities by stating that he had the qualities of a virtual captain. Along with players such as Carbonneau, Kirk Muller, and Vincent Damphousse, Roy assumed leadership of the team and guided it to glory.

Roy's biggest asset, Demers said, was the fact that he was never in doubt of his means. His fierce competitiveness and desire to win were second to none, his hatred of losing legendary. Roy aligned himself best with those who treated games in the same manner and motivated those less determined to follow his lead. Those who missed the message risked suffering Roy's wrath and were often pointed out before team mates. Players got in line, fearing Roy's thoughts would go so far as the papers, were he angered enough to spout his feelings.

Demers said Roy prepared himself for every game in the same way, with absolute professionalism and focus. In practices, he never stopped trying to find ways to improve himself. That, Demers noted, had a profound effect on those who were at his side.

In a relationship that was based on a mutual respect, the coach and player never had a single run-in. Upon his hire with the Canadiens, Demers immediatly identified Roy as his go-to guy, his smoothest path to victory. Demers has often dropped Roy's name in with greatsports leaders such as Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, and Wayme Gretzky, all icons who were given every inch of leverage when it came to carrying their teams to destiny.

Demers says Roy's stature among the games greats is not for him to determine. Having watched players of different era's, it remains a task to compare legend to legend.

In regard to his accrimonious parting with the Canadiens organization, Demers is still convinced that this was hardly the way Roy wished to end it. In the coaches personal opinion, he feels that Perhaps Roy had had enough of Montreal, felt the team in decline, and sought a change of scenery. These things may have weighted heavily on the goaltenders mind, during the infamous Red Wings game of December 1995.

Demers suggests that if Roy's storied exit was such a blemish on the Habs organization, there would be no plans inthe works to retire his jersey during the teams 100th anniversary in 2009.

The former coach and player sat side by side during the Habs - Leafs telecast on Saturday on RDS, while Roy fielded questions from different sources. When asked to name an all-star team of players he faced during his career, Roy responded with players motivated by the same win-at-all-costs motto he shared. In goal, Martin Brodeur, the likeliest goalie to break some of his records. On defense, two foes who also played alongside him, Raymond Bourque and Chris Chelios. He chose Lemieux over Gretzky at center, having faced him on more occasions. His choice for wingers, Cam Neely and Michel Goulet, were notorious for picking Roy apart during the playoffs especially.

Roy was asked the difference between winning at both the pro and junior levels, and whether he one day saw himself behind an NHL bench. Roy's answer caught me by surprise, but was testament to his honesty. The goalie turned owner summised that certain coaches are destined to teach youngsters and that others are more equiped to lead the pros. He suggested that his experiences are more aligned with the kids and guiding them.

As for rules in the game he'd like to see changed, Roy did not hesitate to mention the curbing of goalies handling the puck and delay of game / puck over glass catastrophy.

The banter between the parties and Roy was very friendly and reached comedic levels when Demers asked if Roy remembered what line combinations he'd slipped the coach prior to his last game before being fired in '95. When a commentator pointed that there was time for one last question, Demers asked Roy for an exact quote of what he'd told Canadiens then president Ron Corey from behind the bench. Roy, laughed heartily, and passed.

Never a dull moment with Roy, it seems.

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