Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Jean Perron Looks Back On Patrick Roy

RL Note - One very interesting article by Joe O'Connor of the National Post from November 14, 2006.

Former Canadiens coach Jean Perron, a controversial and often outspoken figure in the teams history, reveals what was going on behind the scenes as Roy was making his entry into the NHL. I must have missed this piece the first time around when Roy was inducted into the HHOF. I found this one while doing some seemingly endless research on the history of the Canadiens goaltenders, which I will hopefully have more to post on soon.

With so much playoff action to watch, the postings here have been scarce in the last week or so. Throw in a string of nightshifts and this site gets backed up a bit, as far as being up to date goes. I won't begin to even attempt to detail what's been going on with the other 8 teams still playing - those teams various bloggers can share that load well enough. I may pop in with the odd piece once the final 4 teams are known. As for now, posts on the Habs will still rule the day.

I have been keeping my eyes open for things that are "off the beaten track". For issues about the Canadiens prospects, the Kovalev scandal, the Hamilton Bulldogs ascent to the Calder Cup, and details of contract negotiations, sites such as Current Habs History And Opinion, Habs World, and Habs Inside Out have all the bases covered - no need for EOTP to become redundant on those fronts.

After checking out Perron's look back, have a laugh with a sites that post his twisted expresions in both official languages. The man is hockey's version of Yogi Berra! I've also found a Guy Carbonneau tribute site, that covers his career from his days in minor hockey up to the persent. For playoff hockey fans with a taste for the historical side, Joe Pelletier's Legends Of Hockey Network has revived a classic Hockey News piece from a few years back. If you ever wondered who deserved winning the Conn Smythe trophy before it's introduction in 1965, this well researched piece is a treat.

Here's O'Connor Perron On Roy...enjoy!

"Hold on one second, I'm driving," Jean Perron barked over a cellphone in a cigarette-soaked French-Canadian accent. The coach of the 1986 Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens wanted to pull over to the side of a Montreal road before he started talking about Patrick Roy.

Perron had a story tell. A good one, about the Patrick he knew way back when, back before the twitchy, pimple-faced, skinny-as-a-Q-Tip kid from Quebec City was anointed the patron Saint -- and saviour -- of the '86 Canadiens' Stanley Cup fortunes.

With his car safely in park, Perron spoke of timing and how a few twists of fate -- almost as much as an immense talent for stopping pucks -- set Roy apart, and started the goaltender down the path that led to his induction in to the Hockey Hall of Fame here last night (November 13, 2006).

Perron was an assistant to head coach Jacques Lemaire with the 1984-85 Canadiens. He was assigned to scout Montreal's American Hockey League team in Sherbrooke after the Quebec Nordiques bounced the big club from the playoffs.

Roy was already in Sherbrooke. Montreal's third-round pick from the 1984 draft had been told to sit in the stands and study Greg Moffett, the Sherbrooke starter, as he led the team on a playoff march.

But a maternal clock and some faulty goalie gear changed everything. Paul Pageau was the backup in Sherbrooke. His wife was giving birth, so he begged off for a game, allowing Roy, the spectator, to ditch his suit and tie for pads and a seat on the bench.

Moffett, the go-to guy, experienced some equipment problems in the middle of that game. So in went Roy, a raw kid with a 5.55 goals-against average in his final season of junior hockey.

"So Patrick jumps in the nets, and he does an outstanding job," Perron says. "He was just miraculous, and Sherbrooke goes on to win the Calder Cup."

Winning the AHL championship was a big deal and all, but in Montreal's mind, especially in the mind of Canadiens general manager Serge Savard, Roy required further seasoning before joining the parent club. Savard already had Steve Penney, the 1985 NHL all-rookie team netminder, to build around, and Penney already had a veteran backup in Doug Soetaert.

But Roy had a vocal ally inside the Canadiens' front office in the summer of '85. Savard, angered over his team's inability to dispatch the Nordiques in the playoffs, had fired Lemaire and replaced him with Perron, the coach who had witnessed Roy perform miracles for Sherbrooke.

(Sorry, Mr. O'Connor - Lemaire resigned, he was not fired. His distaste for the media has been well documented since that day. Another fine example of a misinformed Toronto-based journalist playing history revionist with Habs facts! I couldn't let that one go by!)

"We had our training camp and Patrick was, again, the best goalie," Perron says. "Better than Penney. Better than Doug Soetaert."

Perron approached Savard to talk about the kid with the rubberband for a spine, the strange butterfly style, and the seemingly bottomless well of self-confidence. He told his boss Roy deserved to make the team.

"Serge said no frigging way," Perron says, laughing. "He said, 'He's going to go to Sherbrooke.' Serge knew, he said: 'Jean, don't forget: three is a crowd. You don't have three goalies in the NHL.' "

But you do need two healthy goalies. And when Penney was felled by an injury in Montreal's final pre-season game, Roy was given the start for the season opener in Pittsburgh.

"It was great. I could send Patrick against Mario Lemieux and the Penguins in Pittsburgh for the first game. Can you imagine that?" Perron says. "He was spectacular, and we won."

Penney healed in time for Montreal's home opener a few nights later. He played, and played well.

Thereafter, an uneasy tension inhabited the Montreal dressing room as the two established goaltenders distanced themselves from the upstart who was out to steal their jobs.

"Patrick did not say a word that first year," Perron says. "He knew damn well that Penney and Soetaert didn't like him, but he couldn't care less. He just wanted to play."

To manage a precarious situation, Perron played Roy on the road, Penney at home, and squeezed Soetaert in when he could. The three-headed goalie monster survived until Christmas.

Montreal was several seasons removed from the dynasty years of the late 1970s, but there were still a couple holdovers, Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey, in the dressing room from the glory days.

Veterans, especially those with a fist full of Stanley Cup rings, can be slow to embrace a new presence in the room. But by the holiday season, Robinson had seen enough of Roy to know the Canadiens had a gift in goal, and so he knocked on Perron's office door.

"He said, 'Coach, you have the right to put that kid in nets, because he is so good that even in practice I can't score on the guy,' " Perron says.

"And when Larry Robinson, a future Hall of Famer, tells you this, as a coach you get some confidence."

Roy played the bulk of Montreal's games down the stretch. When Penny got banged up again on the eve of the post-season, Perron was free to ride the rookie all the way to the Stanley Cup, clinching it against the Flames in Calgary.

It afforded Perron his greatest memory of watching Patrick Roy in action. Canadiens' folklorists like to talk about another night earlier that same spring when a hostile full house at Madison Square Garden in New York chanted "Roy, Roy, Roy" ( Sounded like "Roooahhh!" to me! - RL) for three periods and overtime, as Roy turned aside wave after wave of marauding Rangers until Montreal could get the win.

If that was the birth of Saint Patrick, Perron points to the third period of Game 5 of the final in Calgary as the canonization.

Montreal was clinging to a 4-3 lead and killing a five-on-three Flames' advantage when the rookie went to work.

"He was a skinny kid, and he was moving like crazy," Perron says. "Patrick did miracle saves on Al MacInnis, Joey Mullen, Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Suter, Joel Otto, Lanny McDonald and Hakan Loob. He was just unbelievable. I thought that was his best game."

It was followed by many more.

Roy's newly minted Hall of Fame plaque bears witness to the greatness that followed: "The first netminder to play in more than 1,000 NHL games, Roy would set records for wins (551) and playoff wins (151) while becoming the first goalie in NHL history to win 200-plus games with two different teams.

"The six-time all-star posted a career goals-against average of 2.54 with 66 shutouts and would win four Stanley Cup championships as well as 11 major individual NHL awards."

Roy's first personal honour was the 1986 Conn Smythe trophy he earned for his heroics in the Montreal net.

The skinny French kid with the butterfly style was not even supposed to be there, not yet, but a goalie with gear problems, an anxious young coach, an unlucky Penney, a Hall of Fame defenceman -- and a brilliant talent that was eager to shine -- made sure that he was.

"There is timing in life," Perron says. "There was timing when Patrick replaced that No. 1 goalie in Sherbrooke, there was timing when Penny was hurt in the last game of pre-season and there was timing when Larry Robinson came to me.

"And you know, he was awesome for us in 1985-86, but I thought he was even better in 1993. This guy was a franchise player."

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