Patrick Roy: Why He’s a Hockey Expert


Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy has taken some heat this season. Some fans and reporters are questioning Roy’s every decision.

Following are some of the unpopular decisions head coach Patrick Roy has made recently:

Indeed, every time the Colorado Avalanche lose — which has happened three times this season — people start suggesting that Patrick Roy should quit or be fired.

My reverence for Colorado Avalanche head coach and vice president of hockey operations Patrick Roy is well-documented. Indeed, it’s been suggested I have blind faith in the man. Presumably this faith stems from his heroics as a player — two Stanley Cups, one Conn Smythe Trophy and five All Star appearances as part of my favorite team (plus other achievements while with the Montreal Canadiens).

It’s true that I am enamored of what Patrick Roy did for the Avalanche as their goalie. I was lucky enough to see him play live and during live TV many times. However, that appreciation is barely the starter for why I admire him as a coach — and why I account him a hockey expert.

Patrick Roy’s Coaching Chops

The old adage goes that great players typically make bad coaches. That’s understandable — they were so talented, they don’t know how to actually coach hockey. It always came naturally to them.

When people talk about great players failing as coaches, they usually point to Wayne Gretzky. Now they could probably point the finger at Adam Oates, too.

Indeed, one of my favorite hockey quotes came from Brett Hull in a now-forgotten post-game interview. He talked about how he could never be a coach because he’d never bring himself to play the third and fourth lines. “I’d just keep playing the best players until they puked.”

Patrick Roy was an exceptional player. Ergo, he’s destined to be a terrible coach.

Patrick Roy isn’t real big on limitations.

Jun 24, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy poses with the Jack Adams Trophy after being named head coach of the year during the 2014 NHL Awards ceremony at Wynn Las Vegas. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

After retiring from the Colorado Avalanche in 2003, Roy became the vice president of hockey operations of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Quebec Remparts. He also became the general manager and part owner.

In 2005, Roy became the coach of the team.

Every single year (eight total) that Roy coached the team, the Quebec Remparts made the playoffs. They never managed to win the Memorial Cup, but they made it all the way to the Finals one year. They made it all the way to Round 3 twice and Round 2 four times.

Maybe you’d like to hear that he coached them to Memorial Cup victory, but these are still valid accomplishments. Remember, Patrick Roy had never been a coach prior to that 2005-06 season.

Roy came in as the coach of the Colorado Avalanche for the 2012-13 season. He coached a deeply flawed team to their first playoff appearance in four years. He won the Jack Adams award for coach of the year.

That was his first year as an NHL coach. Remember, this is just his third year.

That doesn’t sound like a man who’s failing at this new task.

Patrick Roy Improving

So, can we acknowledge that Patrick Roy is starting with a good foundation as a coach? He may not be Mike Babcock just yet, but he doesn’t have anywhere near that man’s experience (24 years).

Also, can we acknowledge that a man who’s won four Stanley Cups, three Conn Smythe Tropies, three Vezina Trophies and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame knows about hockey?

Ok, let’s start with that foundation and add to it the fact that Patrick Roy is building upon it. One of the favorite accusations is that Roy is stuck in throwback mode.

That’s patently untrue. Hockey writer Adrian Dater once remarked that Roy does little else than watch hockey film during his time off.

That’s because Roy believes that there’s always something new to learn. During an interview with The Fan, he remarked:

"“You’re learning everyday. There’s details of the game, you see things a different way than it was when I started. I think it makes you more complete. The beauty of it is you’re still learning. There’s always something new.”"

Patrick Roy is not focused on coaching the Colorado Avalanche like it’s still the 1990s. He’s keeping abreast of the changes and learning new aspects of the game.

One of the aspects he’s especially interested in developing is the constant adjustments that need to happen during a game. Indeed, defenseman Erik Johnson once remarked that coach Roy is the best coach he’s ever seen for making in-game adjustments.

Another thing — and this is huge — he’s working on that ever-elusive quality, motivation. In fact, he’s reading a book about the legendary coach Thomas Coughlin, currently of the New York Giants. It’s through this study that Roy hit upon the connection between adaptation and motivation. “Adaptability is the quality of great coaches,” he declares.

Patrick Roy is also a big fan of hard work. He was asked about the big difference between being a coach and a player. He immediately remarked that it’s “more work coaching than playing.”

Coaches — or coach Roy anyway — arrive at the arena three or four hours before the game and up to three hours after. Players arrive about an hour before and leave about 20 minutes after. Patrick Roy states, “But I like it. When you’re with a good group, I really enjoy it.”

He also talked about pressure:

"“I never really look at the word pressure. It’s more expectation. We always expect something. As a player I was expecting something of myself. I wanted to perform every night. And as a coach it’s the same thing.”"

Understand this — Patrick Roy doesn’t understand pressure. For him it’s the expectation that he’ll excel. He’s instilling that in his players.

My Reverence for Patrick Roy

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I’m not sure how naysayers look at the above facts and still, well, naysay. Because they do it, and the man himself has noticed. Indeed, when one of the area sports reporters asked him during a post-game presser why goalie Reto Berra was doing so much better, Roy quipped, “Because he’s been reading your articles.”

Do I need to mention “sarcasm font”?

My college degree is in English, and we developed deep skills in rhetoric. One of the hallmarks of ethos, a pillar of rhetoric, is authority, a person whose expertise, education and experience lead him/her to be an expert in the field.

All of the above speaks to me of Patrick Roy’s expertise, education and experience in the field of hockey. He is an expert when it comes to hockey.

Therefore, when coach Roy makes a decision that surprises me, I don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that it’s the wrong decision because I would have done differently. Instead I surmise that I don’t understand the decision. If I’m interested enough — and I usually am — I think through what Patrick Roy may have been thinking.

I’ve gotten pretty good at that, and I like to call myself a Roy Whisperer because I can sometimes pre-guess his decisions. Not always, though, and I, like Roy, am still learning.

Does that mean I view Patrick Roy as a modern-day Socrates?

Read some of my work below — I think the answer will become self-evident.

Next: Patrick Roy Changes the Face of Hockey

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