Colorado Avalanche: What is a Stanley Cup Attitude?

Jun 13, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; The Stanley Cup is on the ice after the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New York Rangers in second overtime during game five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; The Stanley Cup is on the ice after the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New York Rangers in second overtime during game five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Patrick Roy has promised to bring the Stanley Cup attitude to the Colorado Avalanche — find out what that really means.

I love Stanley Cup playoff commercials.

They’re beautifully choreographed to engender tender emotions. They show Stanley Cup moments through the years to connect the history of sports’ most celebrated playoffs and trophy.

The “No Words” Stanley Cup commercial from 2010 is an excellent example of this. It shows hardened men crying, laughing and shaking their heads because there can be no words to convey the beauty of winning the Cup:

Naturally, former Boston Bruin and Colorado Avalanche great Ray Bourque‘s reaction is my favorite.

The commercial from 2013 is one of my favorites — I tear up every time I see it. It’s the “Handshake” commercial, the one that states the Stanley Cup isn’t yours until you shake on it:

The Stanley Cup commercial from 2015 is also special. This is one of the rare commercials which has talking through it, describing what a name means to these players:

Bourque is in this one, too, but I love how the “immediate respect” portion of the commercial shows

Patrick Roy


Now, the portion of the commercial with Patrick Roy in it shows him in his Montreal Canadiens uniform — I believe from the second Cup he won with that franchise, in 1993. He won one in 1989 with them as well. Of course, here in Avs Nation we’re all partial to the two he won with the Colorado Avalanche — in 1996 and 2001.

Patrick Roy has won four Stanley Cups in all. When he came to be the Colorado Avalanche’s head coach in 2013, he stated his intention was to engender a “Stanley Cup attitude” in the team. Maybe a lot of us were thinking about those sentimental commercials and thinking warm thoughts.

The reality is that a Stanley Cup attitude is neither sentimental nor warm — and the man pushing it on the team isn’t really known for those traits either. So, what is a Stanley Cup attitude, and what does it mean to the Colorado Avalanche?

Physical Sacrifices

The Stanley Cup playoffs must be the most brutal post-season tradition. The other professional sports just don’t match up. Either their playoffs go similar rounds but the sport is less physical, such as basketball and soccer. Or the sport is as physical but the post-season much shorter, as with football.

Only hockey players batter each other for two months to win their championship.

You see this in playoff injuries. How about Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price calmly removing his tooth, handing it to a trainer and getting back to his crease:

Ok, that can happen in the regular season, too. However, players regularly play with sprains, broken bones and even concussions, if they can get away with it. Two seasons ago, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski got around the concussion protocol to return to his team’s first-ever playoff appearance. I don’t condone that, but it’s a reality.

How about last season’s Stanley Cup Finals? Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop played with a torn groin muscle. Remember how he had to hop side to side in his crease? The pain must have been exquisite.

Indeed, the end of a team’s post-season means the players catalogue their injuries. And these are just the ones that would have typically taken them out of regular season games — their bodies have to be worn down from the grind of an every-other-day game schedule. Stitched faces are just par for the course.

Remember, teams keep playing until there’s a winner, no matter how many extra periods that takes. The record is six overtime periods — that’s an additional two games of play.

Patrick Roy was no stranger to making those physical sacrifices as a player. One of his infamous stories is how he checked himself out of the hospital to tend goal in the playoffs with an aggravated appendix –which later had to come out.

NHL players are tough nuts, but not all of them are cut out for that level of physical sacrifice. And even if they are, there’s an emotional toll as well.

Related Story: Why Blaming Roy is Wrong

Personal Sacrifices

In the Colorado Avalanche’s heyday, the team was renowned for staying in hotels even when in Denver. They did this to keep the focus on the playoffs. Because the only way you get through the physically demanding grind of the Stanley Cup playoffs is by maintaining your focus.

Going home to the family is considered a distraction.

Other teams have done this as well. Tom Fitzgerald, formerly a Colorado Avalanche player, among other teams, related to the Player’s Tribune a story from when he was an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the most recent year the Penguins won the Cup, 2009. During the final run toward the Stanley Cup, Fitzgerald went 40 days without seeing his family.

Then there’s Martin St. Louis‘ dedication from two years ago. His mother died suddenly of a heart attack in the playoffs. While it’s true the entire team went to his hometown to attend the funeral, St. Louis didn’t even miss a single game.

Now we’re starting to see what the Stanley Cup attitude is comprised of — sheer, single-minded determination to ignore all distractions in pursuit of your goal.

Let’s look at the relevance to the current situation of the Colorado Avalanche.

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Colorado Avalanche and the Stanley Cup Attitude

Head coach Patrick Roy was under fire at the end of the season because he seemed to suddenly turn on his players. For most of his three-year tenure at the helm, he’s been the player’s coach. He’s been super supportive of the players, stating they just needed time and patience to mature.

I don’t know about you , but for me this version of Patrick Roy was foreign. He’s always had a nice side, of course, but he was better-known for his intensity.

Some journalists thought he’d “mellowed” as a coach, but he certainly didn’t coach and manage the Quebec Remparts with a Zen hand. Indeed, he was known for a fit of temper that got fined after one of his players (Mikhail Grigorenko, interestingly) was pressured into playing with an injury. Likewise, apparently his goalies from the Remparts still have nightmares about coach Roy’s expectations.

I suspect Patrick Roy learned from those experiences. I also think he came to the NHL expecting his charges to have the same hunger as he did as a player — and still does as a coach.

And I think he finally came to the unpleasant realization around the March 29th St. Louis game that not all these players do share that hunger. Right after that game, in his weekly interview with The Fan, he admitted the core of the Colorado Avalanche was insufficient. A few days later he lambasted Matt Duchene in the media.

All of this caused a divide in Avs Nation. Many fans took the players’ side, but some understood Patrick Roy’s point of view. Nonetheless, some journalists started suggesting Roy might be on the hot seat. After all, when things go wrong with a team, you always blame the coach.

GM Joe Sakic — himself no stranger to the Stanley Cup attitude — put paid to that in stating that not only do you not “always look at the coach,” but Patrick Roy is absolutely coming back next season. However, some players, even core players, may not:

"“We have to see, take a couple of weeks off to reflect, discuss and figure out if these guys want to learn what it takes to win and show it on the ice by playing the right way… For us right now we have to look and see if the players are going to buy into doing what it takes to win, not just trying to do it the easy way.”"

The implication is clear — players who don’t display or who aren’t willing to learn the iron will of the Stanley Cup attitude are going to be put on the trade block. If that means blowing up the core, so be it. Men who are willing to play through great physical and emotional pain aren’t going to get sentimental about players.

Because as much as I admire Patrick Roy, I fully admit he’s an arrogant man with a hot temper. It certainly was in evidence when he was a player. We’ve started seeing it in him as a coach. I’m sure Patrick Roy can be a horribly unpleasant “boss,” in other words.

However, Patrick Roy didn’t come to Colorado to nurture talent or even take the Avalanche to the playoffs, except as a means to an end. Because Patrick Roy came to Colorado to bring the Stanley Cup here again. And the Stanley Cup isn’t awarded to precious snowflakes. The Stanley Cup is awarded to warriors.

Next: Stanley Cup Playoff Bracket

Coach Roy said it outright — fragile teams don’t deserve to make the playoffs. After all, what’s the point of getting into the playoffs if you don’t have the strength to go all the way? Talent, skill and hard work are just the price of admission for playing in the NHL. What separates NHL players from Stanley Cup champions, at least in part, is an iron-clad will to win, no matter the cost.

That’s truly what Patrick Roy is talking about when he mentions the “Stanley Cup attitude.” It’s not pretty, Avs Nation, but it’s what’s necessary to go the full run. And no one knows better than Patrick Roy what comprises that attitude.