To say the least, news of Patrick Roy's impending jersey retirement has spread great joy across the Habs fan community. The response for what was once viewed as a possibly controversial move by the Canadiens hockey club, has so far met with almost unanimous approval.
Yesterday, as it will be November 22, 2008, was a proud day to be a Habs fan.
On radio, TV, newsprint, and online, stories revolving around Roy's great upcoming honour, were everywhere. The goalie, and anyone connected with him, were offering up stories and opinions everywhere one turned.
As I listened and read much of it, I paid special attention to Roy's comments on this highest of honours, his career, his perspective on himself, the Canadiens and hockey in general.
It did not take me very to begin imagining how his ceremony would unfold.
While listening to Roy's comments in both french and english, it brought me back to November of 2006, when he received the ultimate honour of being inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame.
That evening, Roy gave perhaps the best induction speech I have ever heard. His words bristled with a passion for the game so pure and inspiring, that I wanted be the 1971 nine year old wannabe Ken Dryden all over again - so intense were Roy's proclamations.
I recalled, that upon initially hearing that HHOF speech, I felt a certain sadness, because while his words were so perfectly tuned to desiring a life in hockey as a youngster, the inner reflections he felt compelled to offer, were mostly delivered in french.
When Roy spoke in english, it was where he found the most verbial ease for himself, leaving the best passages undecipherable for a majority of his fans.
After having heard Roy's words back then, I wanted to hear them again, or at least read them over a time or two.
That led me to the idea of transcribing his speech, if I were to get my hands on the script. I did a few searches in that regard then, and came up empty handed, save for some bits and pieces of quotes from the speech. I'll admit, I'm a pretty lazy Internet search - If I don't find what I'm looking for in a couple of hits, I'm outta there.
I recall having had a longshot, brainwave idea that I thought stood a chance. I e-mailed the Quebec Remparts site asking if they would be able to point me to where it could be found. Using my best french grammar - which is horrendous at times - I explained that I was asking for it in order to translate it for english speaking fans.
I made sure to mention how uplifting a speech it was, and that every kid, every hockey fan, deserved to get the message that Roy's speech was all about.
Later that week, I received a reply from Lucie Cloutier, from the Remparts public relations office. She thanked me for my letter and thoughtful words while telling me that the site had no plans at that time to reprint Roy's speech, even though they had received a handful of requests.
The very next day, Ms Cloutier e-mailed me with a change of heart. Apparently, she made a call and learned that there were copies of the speech available for online posting, and that the site would get to putting it up within the following week.
When it appeared, I was a little blown away, to say the least!
Back in November 2006, when I read the speech posted at the Remparts site, I remember getting the same chills up the spine as on the night I heard Roy deliver his words.
I can imagine that come the 22nd of November, Roy might just fine tune this speech in a Canadiens light, for he will be speaking directly and intimately to his believers.
My guess is that it will raise the roof in itself!
Ladies and Gentleman, and dear friends in hockey, good evening!
I would wish to start off by thanking the members of the selection committee for this greatest of honors. I would also like to take the opportunity to congratulate fellow honorees, Dick Duff, Herb Brooks, and Harley Hotchkiss, on their induction this evening.
While it doesn't seem all that long ago I was hitting the ice for my first NHL game, I realize tonight what a long road it has been.
A road filled with challenges, hard work, and perseverance, but also filled with profound friendships, teamwork and togetherness.
It's a road lit by a passion and a thirst for winning that still burns stringly inside of me today
My journey through the NHL, with Montreal, and then Colorado, is loaded with special memories and emotions.
My first memory goes back to when I was about 8 years old when my parents brought me to the arena for the first time. It was then, that I started believing in my dream: becoming a professional goaltender in the National Hockey League.
It was at that moment that I chose to dedicate myself entirely to it, gaining inspiration from the likes of Daniel Bouchard and Rogie Vachon, while every ounce of my heart, my guts, and my passion.
I dreamt of this league where only the best played!
I dreamt of being one of its stars and being a winner!
I dreamt of playing alongside the game's greats!
I dreamt that my talent, my inner strength, and my never ending desire to win, would rock hockey fans!
Today, when I look back, I feel very lucky to have been a part of the National Hockey League and to have played in the best possible conditions on teams such as the Canadiens and the Avalanche. I sure do remember the pain, the sacrifices, the discipline and the efforts…
But I also remember partnership, friendship, and mostly, the awesome feeling of being part of a team.
I remember that it was our thirst for winning that made wins possible. There is no sensation quite like being on a team whose mission is to go for the Stanley Cup.
Hockey taught me discipline. It also taught me to believe in my dreams, to go for it and to never give up.
Tonight, I feel very lucky to have been supported by many people who have believed in me, and I would like to take a few moments to thank them.
Had it not been for my mother and father, who believed in me and backed and supported me in every way when I was filed with ambition...
Had it not been for my children, Jana, Frederick, and Jonathan, in addition to their mother. who enabled me with the freedom necessary to reach this day...
Had it not been for my agents, Robert Sauve and Pierre Lacroix, and their advice and guidance in my time with Montreal and then Colorado...
Had it not been for team mates, with their constant support and confidence in me...
Had it not been for opponants, who defied me to continue to surpass myself...
Had it not been for the coaches who taught me to persevere and become consistant, and who knew the ways in which to bring out the spirit which brought out the best in me...
Were it not for hockey's ardent fans who love and cherish the game...
Were it not for hockey itself, the most exciting sport in the world...
I'd never have had the joy of travelling down this cherished road, to stand here today before you, receiving this honor and these tributes on a night I will never forget.
Thanks to Adam Foote, my friend, my roomate during 8 years and probably my best English teacher. (Maybe I should have played longer!)
Thanks to Ray Bourque, who inspired, not only myself, but an entire team, to surpass themselves in our Cup win in 2001.
Thanks to Mike Keane and Pierre Turgeon, who I became great friends with.
I am very proud, and would like to make special note of the presence tonight of my sister Alexandra, and my brother Stephane.
I had often heard that I was compulsive and had a hard head. Today, with hindsight, I'd term it as empassioned and driven, a warrior who welcomed a new challenge.And doesn't a champion have to step out of line every once in a while?
I have also been credited with inventing the butterfly style of goaltending. Not true! That style existed well before. With the dogged dedication and vision of Francois Allaire, I was able to perfect and advance it.
Today, it makes me feel extremely proud to see the many up and coming goalies that will use this for future generations.
To all the younsters of today, dreaming of one day being in the NHL, I want to take this moment to urge you to believe in yourself, to persevere, make the best of yourself in pressure situations, and surpass yourselves.
Nobody will be a champion without efforts. Nobody will become a winner whitout discipline, faith and passion.
Each day, as a coach, I see talent on the ice.
Each day, I see young players who remind me of myself, who have a burning desire and a profound respect for hockey.
Tonight, I'd like you to grasp and retain one word, a word that guided and led me all down this road, each morning when I laced up my skates:
It's up to you to draw the most from the passion that encompasses you, and transform it into unforgettable experiences underlined with success, challanges, friendships, and lessons in life.
Finally, I would also like to congratulate my colleague inductees and award recipients, Herb Brooks, Dick Duff and Harley Hotchkiss.
Thank-you very much, and long live hockey!