The Colorado Avalanche traded for the best goalie in the world in early December, 1995 — a moment that’s beloved by Avs fans, less so Canadiens fans.
The Colorado Avalanche brought the first-ever professional sports championship to the state at the conclusion of the 1995-96 season. They won the Stanley Cup in the wee hours of June 11, to be exact, in triple overtime.
Hockey is a team sport, and you can never say one player is the sole reason a team wins a game, much less a whole championship. However, it’s widely conceded that one player was the final piece needed to take a Cup-contending team all the way to victory. That player is Patrick Roy.
And he should never have been playing for the Avalanche.
The Montreal Canadiens made a colossal mistake when they gave in to the wrong man’s colossal ego. Because make no mistake, Le Trade was the result of two men’s ego’s going to battle. Roy’s ego lost the battle, but he won the war in the end.
His foe was a longstanding one — Mario Tremblay. They had had a strained relationship ever since their playing days, when they were not only teammates but roommates for a time. Roy was less than pleased when the Canadiens hired him in replacement of Jaqcques DeMers. Stories circulated of the two making fun of each others’ English — and Tremblay once fired a shot at Roy’s throat in practice.
Their enmity came to a head on December 2, 1995. Patrick Roy played his last game as a Canadien. However, as with every exit he’s made in his career, he did so on his own terms.
Interestingly, the Canadiens were already looking to trade Roy in October. Needless to say, they were hoping to get a king’s ransom for the best goalie in the NHL. Why they were thinking of trading the best goalie in the NHL is beyond me — apparently, it was the ego thing. According to The Athletic, the upper offices felt Roy “meant too much to the team.”
In any case, the Canadiens were hoping to get a haul back for Roy, but they fired their GM before pulling the trigger. They replaced him with an extraordinarily inexperienced man whom Pierre LaCroix later exploited in trade.
I suppose I ought to feel ashamed of LaCroix. But he got us Roy. Smartly, he always knew Roy was the ticket to the newly-minted Avalanche being Cup contenders and true winners.
We all know the catalyst for Le Trade:
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Tremblay embarrassed Roy, who then announced he’d never play for Montreal again. A less-known fact is that Patrick Roy had talked to Mike Vernon (whom he later pummeled), that morning and mentioned wanting out of Montreal. No way Roy played badly on purpose that night, but he saw the opportunity to make his wish come true.
And Roy isn’t afraid to perform on a public stage to get what he wants.
That night, Roy’s ego butted heads with Tremblay’s first and Canadiens’ president Ronald Corey second due to his supercilious announcement. They then put the rookie GM, Réjean Houle, in the unenviable position of having to trade away one of the best players in the entire NHL who’s just announced he won’t play for your team any longer and whom the team just suspended in response.
No wonder the Canadiens got such a paltry return in the trade.
Montreal fans at the time, as hard as they could be on their superstar goalie, had to feel so much pain seeing him get traded from the team in such an unceremonious manner. It must have been cruel to watch him then go on and bring glory in the form of the Stanley Cup to his new team. And even to become a legend as he sparked one of the most celebrated rivalries that’s ever existed in sports.
But on this side of the trade, it was glorious. I’ve said before that I admired Patrick Roy from the first moment I understood what hockey was and what a goalie’s job was. I saw from Day 1 he was the best of the best.
And then he came to my team. Even if the trade hadn’t happened in December, it would have felt like Christmas to me.
Patrick Roy’s last game with the Canadiens happened on December 2, 1995. He was traded on December 6. He played his first game with Colorado the next day, December 7, a victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
Our little ol’ team in our little ol, non-hockey town should have never had such a legend as Patrick Roy, fresh out of his home province of Quebec. But we did, and he brought us glory.