As Roy finally comes home to Montreal, that 'one night' will be forgotten
The exit was so dramatic, the wound so deep, it is still the No. 1 topic of conversation 13 years later.
Patrick Roy has had to diplomatically relive Dec. 2, 1995 with numerous media outlets, in both of Canada's official languages, in the week leading up to his jersey retirement in Montreal on Saturday night.
His message has been consistent.
"I think my career is more than just one night," Roy told ESPN.com in a phone interview.
Come Saturday evening at a rocking Bell Centre, that ugly divorce from the Canadiens may finally be healed for good. No. 33 in bleu, blanc et rouge will go up to the rafters, and all will be forgiven.
"With time, everything takes care of itself. This is a deserved gesture for Patrick," Rejean Houle said Thursday.
It was Houle, Montreal's GM at the time, who was forced to trade Roy that fateful December in 1995. Roy had played his hand and left the Habs' GM little room to maneuver. The emotional and proud Roy, embarrassed that then-coach Mario Tremblay left him in net too long during an 11-1 blowout loss to Detroit, famously walked up to then-team president Ronald Corey and told him he had played his last game in a Canadiens uniform.
"What I find sad is why everyone needs to come back on that incident," Houle said. "That's in the past. It's a long time ago. I try to understand why the media doesn't focus on the great side of Patrick Roy's part in our history. That's much more important.
"His two Stanley Cups with us is way, way more important. We turned the page a long time ago, but I guess the media never turns the page."
Houle traded Roy away, a deal that set in motion an era of rare futility for the franchise, but now, as president of the Canadiens Alumni, he also gets to welcome the goalie back. From now on, Roy will be included in some team events and special nights, much like former stars Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer and others.
Patrick is back home.
"Yes, it's nice," Houle said. "Listen, personally there was never any animosity between Patrick and I. We have always been very cordial with each other. But it's part of the business of hockey. Howie Morenz was traded. 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion and Jacques Plante also played elsewhere, but we still retired their jerseys. That's the business. That we're honoring Patrick Roy in the end is absolutely deserved."
Time does indeed heal, and the timing of this night couldn't be better, Roy said.
"Especially now when you look at the people that are there, from [GM] Bob Gainey to [coach] Guy Carbonneau, people that I have tons of respect for. It's a good opportunity to move on," said Roy, who won Stanley Cup championships in 1986 and 1993 playing alongside both men. "Having them there, of course, is going to make it even more special for me."
This is a vastly different organization Roy is coming back to -- different ownership, different management, different coaching staff. It's good to be back.
"I'm happy to see the Canadiens having success. Seeing Carbo behind the bench with them. I couldn't ask for a better situation than having my jersey retired with Montreal playing good hockey."
Roy, now the part-owner and coach of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Quebec Remparts, has tried to visualize what Saturday night will be like.
"It should be a very emotional night," Roy said. "I'm sure it's going to be extremely special to see myself with the Montreal jersey on in front of the fans. It'll mean a lot to me."
He's quick to add that it isn't his style to outwardly show emotion, so he's not sure what will happen on that front. No need guessing what the crowd reaction will be. The fans will show Roy their appreciation for his 10-plus seasons of clutch goaltending in a Habs uniform.
"Expectation is something you have to deal with in Montreal," Roy said. "People expect to see the team do well year after year. But when you do, I can tell you they give it back to you in a great way; they appreciate it and they're very supportive. It's a great place to be, there's no doubt about it. Hockey is the big thing in Montreal. They love the game."
And now, they can simply love Roy for what he means to the team's history. Time to move on from Dec. 2, 1995. Time to remember the baby-faced rookie who wouldn't let the New York Rangers score in overtime in the spring of 1986. Time to remember the cocky veteran who, in one wink, told the Los Angeles Kings he would not be beat in the 1993 Stanley Cup finals.
"I'm thinking of '86 and '93 and even '89, when we lost to Calgary. There were a lot of good moments," Roy said. "That's what I want people to remember."
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.