Colorado Avalanche: An Open Letter About Patrick Roy

DENVER, CO. - MAY 28: The Colorado Avalanche announced Patrick Roy as their new head coach/vice president of hockey operations May 28, 2013 at Pepsi Center. This will make Roy the 6th head coach in Avalanche history since coming to Denver. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO. - MAY 28: The Colorado Avalanche announced Patrick Roy as their new head coach/vice president of hockey operations May 28, 2013 at Pepsi Center. This will make Roy the 6th head coach in Avalanche history since coming to Denver. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /
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One Colorado Avalanche fan’s journey from despair to closure over Patrick Roy’s resignation.

I’ll forever remember the day Patrick Roy resigned from being head coach of the Colorado Avalanche — August 11, 2016. It was the day before my birthday, but I’d remember the date anyway. It was the most upsetting Avs-related event that had ever happened to me — could ever happen to me.

I’ve said before I always thought that, if Patrick Roy left Colorado like he left Montreal I’d hate him. Turned out that wasn’t true. Instead, it put me into a quandary of my beloved team versus my hero. And I couldn’t just turn my back on both because of this site. I was nearing my two-year anniversary as editor, and I was proud of what I’d accomplished with Mile High Sticking.

And so, I went on an Avs fan odyssey that was very difficult for me. You’ve seen a lot of it played out on this site. There’s been a lot that played out on my personal social media, especially Twitter. And there’s also been an internal struggle.

So on this, the anniversary of “Roypocalypse,” or Roy’s resignation from the Colorado Avalanche, I’m going to cap off the Roy was Right series with my own personal journey.

My Admiration for Patrick Roy

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I became a hockey fan in 1993 before Colorado had a team. I was a Pittsburgh Penguins fan because they were the shiniest thing around. However, there was one man who seemed to stymie my new favorite players — goalie Patrick Roy.

I asked my boyfriend at the time — a Boston Bruins fan — what was up with this Roy guy. With resignation he explained that Roy was the best goalie in the world, a “brick wall” in net. So, my first memories of Roy were of him as the best. I admired and respected him for that, even if I was chagrined that he stopped my favorite scorers.

Fast forward a couple years, Colorado gets a team. I didn’t know who any of these Avalanche née Nordiques players were. I supported them because they were my home team, but I didn’t know them.

Then on December 2, 1995, the course of my hockey fandom changed. A man I did know and admire, the best goalie in the world, got traded to my team. I finally went out and bought my first Colorado Avalanche jersey — Patrick Roy’s. I still have it, and I still wear it the most frequently.

It’s so unfortunate that the old adage is true — you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I thought the Avalanche would always be great. I thought we’d always have the best goalie in the world, Patrick Roy. I thought the Avs would just maintain the status quo forever.

I took that all for granted.

If you don’t at least respect Patrick Roy, I don’t know what to say to you. He was once the best of the best, the greatest goalie in the NHL. He’s a Hall of Famer, one of the finest ever to strap on the goalie pads. He’s heralded as one of the top 100 NHLers of all time. And it’s not even close. If there were tiers in the Hall of Fame, Patrick Roy would be in the top tier with the likes of Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Jacques Plante and Wayne Gretzky. Legendary status, in other words.

And he was a Colorado Avalanche! He brought the first ever sports championship to Colorado. He’s won three Conn Smythe Trophies and three Vezina Trophies. He has four Stanley Cup rings.

And he’s one of the most passionate players to ever play the game. He’s legendary for his wink:

He did it as an Avalanche player, too.

His exchange with Jeremy Roenik is legendary as well:

I can understand why such a fiery man can be off-putting if you’re an opponent. But he was a Colorado Avalanche! This great man, who’s right up there in stature with Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky, played for the Colorado Avalanche.

What’s more, that great man chose to return to Colorado. He came back to the Avalanche to be the head coach. If you’re respectful of Roy’s stature in the hockey hierarchy, you must admit that’s an honor for our team.

Some readers have noticed I focus a lot on the old greats. Well, a main reason for that is life happened. I spent years living abroad, not paying attention to hockey

I came back to Denver to live in 2007. I knew I was going to take up with my old flame again, the Colorado Avalanche. In 2007, though, the face of the Avs had changed.

I tried to catch up. However, this wasn’t the team I remembered from our first romance. I barely knew who any of the players were, and the couple stars — Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg — were at the ends of their careers. I was at the NHL debut for Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog, I just didn’t recognize at the time that it had mattered.

And the Avs weren’t the winners I remembered. They plodded along, seeming to lose more than they won. I watched games with half my attention because it really wasn’t much fun.

Then it happened again. Patrick Roy came to the team. The man I had loved and respected for a decade and a half had returned.

And Roy had the same passion, brilliance and pure will to win he had as a goalie. He reached legend status again right on opening night:

I was at that opening night — I typically go to all opening nights, but I wouldn’t have missed this one for the world. And I can tell you that the crowd surged to its feet and screamed itself hoarse when the announcers said Patrick Roy’s name before the game. The cheering for him was greater than for any player or for the team itself. I was not alone in revering Roy. I. Was. Not. Alone.

I’m not going to go into why I argue Patrick Roy was a good coach. It’s all here:

Related Story: Roy Coached Better than Bednar

However, stating Patrick Roy was a boon to this team as a player and as a coach is the hill I’ve chosen to die on . I’d say that’s pretty obvious.

 Foreboding Resignation

patrick roy
CALGARY, AB – MARCH 18: Head coach Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche watches from the bench during an NHL game against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Two friends have the distinction of bringing me bad Patrick Roy news. One told me — in the airport parking lot where she’d picked me up from my living in Croatia — that Patrick Roy had retired. The other texted me a link that Roy had resigned from the Colorado Avalanche.

That second still hurts, because it was a prolonged pain. I knew, you see. I’d been frantic for months, both here and on social media, to stave off something over which I had no control. I knew from April 7, 2016, that Patrick Roy would leave.

That was the day of the Avs game against the Dallas Stars. Coach Roy had been coming under so much heat. I felt like a Crusader fighting against the infidels. I had christened myself the High Priestess in the Cult of Roy, and I was only half joking.

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I hated that outsiders were daring to judge my team’s coach. However, I  couldn’t bear the thought that Avs fans were turning on a player hero. I felt that, if I could just phrase things right, present the proper arguments, I could show that it wasn’t all Patrick Roy’s fault. Stop blaming our player hero.

With all of that going through my head, I read this horror of a Puck Daddy story. I’m not going to deign to link to it, but it called virulently for Patrick Roy’s firing. I read it during lunch right before I read a tweet that coach Roy had missed morning skate.

A few minutes later, after I’d already resumed work, the two thoughts collided in my head and sunk to my belly. I thought Roy had been fired and that was why he’d missed morning skate. I was sick to my stomach at the thought.

A little later I discovered it was Roy himself who had been sick to his stomach, with food poisoning. He hadn’t been fired. But deep inside, I knew he was finished.

That’s why I became that frantic Crusader. I wrote several posts against blaming Patrick Roy:

I also touted Joe Sakic’s assurance that Roy would returning across the heavens:

But I also wrote this melancholy post:

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was writing it with the deeply buried understanding that I wasn’t saying goodbye to the Colorado Avalanche season. I was saying goodbye to Patrick Roy as the head coach.

Roypocalypse

I don’t expect any sensitivity as I relate my feelings about Roypocalypse, when Patrick Roy resigned as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche. I didn’t get much then, and I don’t expect it now.

I know there are worse things in the world than seeing your player hero resign as coach of your favorite team. For me, though, there’s nothing sports-related (that doesn’t involve actual death) that could happen. Literally, I would rather see the Avs lose Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in triple overtime than endure that again.

I went a little mad. After all that frantic defending as the Cult of Roy Crusader, I had a pretty good Avs fan meltdown when Roy resigned. Readers saw it here, but my friends on Twitter received the brunt of it.

In fact, fans across Denver heard it. Altitude Radio invited listeners to call in with reactions to Roy’s resignation. I did so, and I cried on sports radio. Vic Lombardi was amazed.

I was depressed for weeks. I had to drive by Roy’s old condo on my way to work, and I teared up every time I looked at it.

One song will always be tied to that time because it was popular then and it seemed to illustrate how I was feeling — “Breath” by Breaking Benjamin:

I still sing these lyrics about Roy’s resignation:

"“So sacrifice yourself,And let me have what’s left.I know that I can findThe fire in your eyes.I’m going all the way,Get away.You [took] the breath right out of me.You left a hole where my heart should be.”"

“You left a hole where my heart should be” — I felt like I’d lost my Colorado Avalanche fandom. And that hurt so bad. I was the editor of an Avs fan blog, and I didn’t want to give that up. I identified widely as an Avs fan — it was such an integral part of who I am that people at work identify me that way. I’d been an Avs fan my whole adult life.

And it looked like that was over. I was so angry at the players. I hated every single one of them for not being good enough for Patrick Roy. And I hated Joe Sakic, one of the greatest Avs player heroes, for forcing Patrick Roy out.

Mostly I was just so sad. “Breath” was like my breakup song with the Colorado Avalanche. And though I’ve returned to Avs Nation, that song still stands as a melancholy reminder of that time.

Resolution

Props to you if you’re still with me — and thanks. I’ve already shared my dancing horses video with you, but I share my thanks here.

If you stuck with me from Roypocalypse until now, you’ve seen at least part of my process of coming back to Avs Nation. Perhaps you even saw my tattoo:

To be fair, I told my artist that it had to be a Patrick Roy tattoo in Colorado Avalanche colors, not an Avs tattoo that happened to be of Patrick Roy. And it is that, a Patrick Roy tattoo. But it’s in Avalanche colors.

I can actually pinpoint when I became an Avs fan again — fittingly, New Years Day. There was an Avalanche practice, and I decided for the first time that season that I wanted to go.

Not only that, I decided for the first time ever that I wanted to wait for the players to exit the parking lot. I don’t like creeping the players, but my friends wanted autographs, and I wanted to hang out with my Avs friends.

It started slowly, though. I still had my Patrick Roy jersey hanging off the closet door, and I have plenty of Avs fan gear. I’d see the burgundy and blue, and the colors created fond feelings for me. I love those colors because they’re my team’s colors.

My team. The Colorado Avalanche.

I’ve been told I should “get over it” about Roy’s resignation now that it’s been a year. This post — this entire series — had been meant to be my catharsis. It has been cathartic.

However, a part of me also thinks of these posts and some of the previous ones as my Cult of Roy Manifesto:

Because I may be “getting over” Roypocalypse, but I’m not giving up Patrick Roy.

Every manifesto should have a call to action. Mine is not going to be to join me in absolute admiration for the Great Man. If you’re not there yet, you never will be. It turns out I actually don’t have the right arguments and set of Tweets to convert fans.

However, I do have a direct call to action: Stop blaming Patrick Roy. He’s not blameless, but he wasn’t the architect of the Colorado Avalanche’s demise. There were a lot of factors, and his inherent will to win that led to his seemingly untimely resignation were only a couple of many, many factors.

Stop blaming Patrick Roy, and I stop being the Cult of Roy Crusader. It’s really that simple, dear readers. You’ll never change my mind. I may not change yours, but you can see by now that I won’t stop trying.

Stop blaming Patrick Roy. We’ve got a tough season ahead of us, and we armchair GMs and coaches need to figure this out in case the real GMs and coaches give us a call.

Stop blaming Patrick Roy, and we can figure this thing out together instead of being adversaries across a quasi-religious battlefield.

Stop. Blaming. Patrick. Roy. It’s kind of catchy — you can almost dance to it.

By Nadia Archuleta