Patrick Roy was the idol of a whole generation of hockey fans. On Friday, however, it was his own idol that he lost when Guy Lafleur passed away.
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Even if, like everyone else, he knew that the days of the Blond Demon were numbered, Roy admits that he continued to live in the hope of good news about his state of health.
“We may expect the worst, but it seems to me that we are never ready for that. We are all hoping for a miracle to happen and for us to hear some good news. Unfortunately, that was not the case this morning, he first commented. Guy Lafleur was a legend, a person who had an impact on a lot of people, especially guys of my generation. On Saturday evening, we went to the passage at my parents’ house and we were Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden.
After adoring him, Roy had the chance to rub shoulders with him as a teammate in his first season in the National Hockey League, with the Canadiens, in 1984-1985. Aged 18, he started the season with the Habs before returning to his junior team, the Granby Bisons.
“To walk into the locker room, be the little ass staring at him on Saturday night and sit four benches away from him, it was impressive and intimidating. Despite everything, he was a very accessible person and a guy who liked to joke around with guys. […] I consider myself lucky to have lived these moments. At the time, we do not realize how lucky we are and today, it allows me to reflect on what I have been through.
After briefly working with him as a teammate, Roy then had the opportunity to face him when Lafleur decided to return to play with the New York Rangers after a three-year retirement.
Photo Didier Debusschere
A good memory
His most memorable confrontation will certainly have been that of February 4, 1989, the first of Lafleur at the Montreal Forum in a different uniform than that of the Habs. For the occasion, he scored two goals against Patrick Roy but the Canadian still won 7-5.
“For me, it remains a good memory. You never like getting goals scored, but as long as you get scored, it might as well be him. For the show, it had been a magical evening for people. As soon as he hit the rink for the warm-up period, the crowd went wild. It hasn’t often happened to me to hear a standing ovation after being scored!” joked Roy.
a real man
Besides the talent and legacy left to the Montreal Canadiens, another thing united Guy Lafleur and Patrick Roy: an uncommon outspokenness these days.
Lafleur has never been afraid to give his opinion, even when questioned on hot topics surrounding the Montreal Canadiens. During the last hiring process for a general manager by the Habs, Lafleur had campaigned in favor of Roy’s candidacy in the media.
“There was a lot of respect between the two of us and it touched me to feel that he was behind me and supporting me in what I was doing because God knows we need it. At the same time, he was never afraid to speak his mind. […] It was true. Whether you like what he said or not, he was true. This is what is important today. Whether it suits people or not, it doesn’t matter. The people who respond on Twitter or the commies who try to give themselves importance on sites… The important thing is to be true in life.
For Roy, what also set Lafleur apart was the fact that, despite the glory, he had always remained down to earth and attached to his roots.
“With the Remparts, I always perceived him as someone who knew where he came from. He was always available for us and was a top brand ambassador. Not only was he the best player in the history of our organization, but he was also available, accessible and generous with his time. I had a lot of admiration for that.”
An example for his players
Obviously, the players that Roy manages with the Remparts did not know Guy Lafleur. Despite everything, the head coach believes that they can still learn from the legacy left by the former no. 10 of the Montreal Canadiens.
“What I remember is his fighting spirit. I read an article recently in which Yvan Cournoyer said that he was a team guy and a first-class teammate. That’s what we want from our players, that they are guys who stand together, play as a team and are persistent. The beginning of his career was not as easy as during his best moments. He had even decided to take off his helmet because he thought it harmed him. He was persistent and resilient in his way of doing things.
Moreover, Roy proposes that the traditional minute of silence be replaced by an ovation, this evening, in all the amphitheaters of the QMJHL.
“I think people need to externalize, show and demonstrate the respect they had for the man.”