Patrick Roy: Coach or Cult Leader?


“Players would go through a brick wall for (Patrick Roy)” – Erik Johnson

You’ve heard of the cult of personality, right? Hero worship so deep and indoctrinated it turns an individual into an idealized image? It has been suggested that Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy nears that distinction.

Roy comes from a fantastic hockey province, Quebec, to a fantastic sports state, Colorado. And he is a hockey icon. Quebecois love their hockey players, and Coloradans love their sports stars. In short, Roy is fantastically popular amongst the masses, in the media and even in his own locker room.

Fans About Patrick Roy

Patrick Roy has long had a nickname, St. Patrick. Naturally, this nickname is largely based on his first name. However, 99.999% of the Patricks go through life without the appended “St.” — including sports icons such as Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.

Roy is different because he made his name not just as a great player, but as Mr. Clutch. As a goalie, Roy could steal a game. He once bragged to his teammates during the playoffs, “You only have to score two goals, because I’m not letting in more than one.” That is beyond confidence.

Even more impressive, during the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals, when Florida fans got on his nerves by throwing rats on the ice every time the Panthers scored, Roy told his teammates, “No more rats.” That was Game 3. He did not allow another goal the entire series, helping the Avalanche win their first Stanley Cup.

Yes, Patrick got away with his cockiness because he backed it up. When Roy was on fire, he was a brick wall. Heck, he backstopped the Canadiens to two victories while suffering from appendicitis.

Not much has changed now that he’s the head coach of the Avalanche. Fans across the Avs Nation went crazy when we heard he was replacing Joe Sacco. Indeed, during his first opening night against the Anaheim Ducks, he got the loudest buzz. Actually, opening night against the Minnesota Wild this season, he got the loudest buzz again. Avs fans are so devoted to St. Patrick that we just murmur “In Roy we trust” whenever he makes a coaching move we don’t understand.

His detractors, though, hate him for his “megalomania” as much as Avs fans love him. No doubt he’s cocky. No doubt he’s over the top. If you’re anything but an Avalanche fan, it’s easy not to like Patrick.

Players About Patrick Roy

The players admitted that there was a little bit of awe with the Avalanche’s own Hall of Fame goalie coming in as their new head coach. Captain Gabriel Landeskog said of the situation:

"“A lot of guys were intimidated at first. I mean, who wouldn’t be when Patrick Roy is your coach?”"

However, Roy worked to alleviate any awkwardness. He became a player’s coach — and not just in name. Roy has mentioned that they’re in a partnership together, and the players agree. Landeskog added:

"“He’s in this together with us. It’s a partnership. It’s not coach vs. players. We’re all in this together, and he made that really clear from the beginning.”"

Star center Matt Duchene concurred:

"“There’s that underlying respect there that’s always going to be there for a guy like that who’s done so much in his career and his life. So it works perfectly. We think the world of him, and he treats us like gold.”"

That’s very important — that mutual admiration and respect.

Cornerstone defenseman Erik Johnson mentioned that he’s in awe with Roy’s ability to make in-game tactical changes. He added:

"“He’s been just a great, great asset to our group. We’ve learned a lot from him. I know that I’m very fortunate that he’s our coach, and I think that a lot of the other guys feel the same way. We love playing for him.”"

Indeed, Johnson once said the players would “go through a brick wall” for Roy.

On the flip side, the gregarious PA Parenteau never saw eye-to-eye with coach Roy. He was baffled by the lack of understanding, but that was one player at least who clearly wasn’t in charity with the Colorado coach.

Charismatic Leader — and Legend

More from Avalanche News

There have been many great coaches and many great players in the NHL. However, the vast majority of them don’t come anywhere near reaching cult leader status. What makes Patrick Roy so special?

Well, first of all, just that — he is special. As a goalie, he was infamous for having the most superstitions. He wouldn’t skate over the red line, he would never sweep anything into the net, he maintained radio silence on game days…

As a player, while his individual efforts and achievements certainly stand out, ask fans about their favorite Patrick Roy moments. They’re usually about something unusual, such as that time he deked Wayne Gretzy on his way to center ice. Or that time he tried to hot dog a save with a Statue of Liberty move — and dropped the puck right into the net.

He became infamous for The Wink. During a Stanley Cup Final, he stopped a Luc Robataille shot. Kings forward Tomas Sandstrom stood at the ready, but Roy just looked up at him and winked. Sandstrom was incensed, but Roy didn’t care:

"“I knew Sandstrom was taking lots of shots, but not getting anything. And I knew he wasn’t going to beat me.”"

There was that time he fought Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood at center ice. And that terrible tantrum that heralded the end in Montreal (Thank you, Mario Tremblay.)

However, from his player days, probably everybody’s favorite moment is the exchange he had with Jeremy Roenick. During Roy’s first Cup run with the Avs, then-Blackhawk Roenick tried some smack talk, saying he didn’t know where Roy had been, positing “Probably up trying to get his jock out of the rafters.”  Ok, juvenile, especially when compared to Roy’s so-famous retort:

"“I can’t hear what Jeremy says, because I’ve got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears.”"

Roy has somewhat calmed down as a coach. However, he has become infamous yet again. During that opening night against the Ducks, his first-ever and an NHL coach, he took umbrage at Anaheim’s treatment of his players. During a shouting match with Anaheim coach Bruce Bodreau, he gave the partition separating the two benches a mighty shove, knocking it lose.

Roy rocks the partition:

Needless to say, Boudreau’s not a big fan — by the looks of the video, Ducks forward Corey Perry‘s not too keen either. But the players, the media and the fans fell in love with Patrick Roy all over again.

So, his players love him. The media loves him — he’s always good for a story. His fans adore him. Patrick Roy was one of the best goalies to ever suit up, and he won the Jack Adams award for coaching last year.

For Roy to be a cult leader — or the center of a cult of personality — the hullabaloo surrounding him would have to be propaganda. It is not. He has earned every fan and every detractor with the type of player he was and type of coach he has become.

In Roy we trust.

Next: Roy Criticizes Officials