As a player, Patrick Roy was a polarizing figure – and it looks as though he will become that again as an NHL head coach.
Good. The league needs a few more effervescent personalities. And if they come equipped with four Stanley Cup rings and a Hall of Fame blazer, so much the better.
One game into his NHL coaching career, Roy has already managed to get himself on the league’s bad side – fined $10,000 (U.S.) Thursday for “acting irresponsibly” at the end of the his debut behind the Colorado Avalanche bench.
You could hardly miss seeing the video by now: Roy is jawing away with Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry in the dying seconds of the Avs home opener, which had gone spectacularly well, a 6-1 Colorado win. But the coach was riled up because of a near-miss that had occurred moments before – Ducks defenceman Ben Lovejoy colliding knee-on-knee with prize prospect Nathan MacKinnon.
In the final seconds of play, after the Ducks had broken goaltender Semyon Varlamov’s shutout attempt, tensions were mounting. Roy put out two of his fourth-line tough guys, Patrick Bordeleau and Cody McLeod, for the ensuing faceoff, and trouble started.
Bordeleau slashed at Ducks forward Matt Beleskey. A melee ensued. Roy walked in the direction of the Ducks bench and kept yammering away – until Anaheim counterpart Bruce Boudreau went over and gave it right back to him. At that point, Roy gave the glass that separated the two benches a hard push and it swayed dangerously to one side.
The league didn’t like any of it.
In the words of Colin Campbell, the senior executive vice-president of hockey operations, “One of the responsibilities of an NHL coach is to help diffuse volatile situations on the bench.”
But the primary function of an NHL coach is to just win, baby, and Colorado hasn’t done much of that lately. With Roy at the helm, maybe that will start to change.
Roy is the second coach in less than a month to get fined by the NHL. Ron Rolston of the Buffalo Sabres was penalized by the league for “player selection” in the aftermath of the John Scott-Phil Kessel incident during the preseason.
Boudreau seemed genuinely puzzled by Roy’s outburst, but the Ducks coach probably doesn’t know him well.
Roy has always understood marketing, even before he spent eight years running the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, where his legendary temper bubbled to the surface more than once.
Once upon a time, when Roy tended the Avs nets, winning Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001, Denver was a good hockey town. But the sport had become an afterthought in the market.
The Avs have missed the playoffs in five of the past seven years (including the past three in a row), and resided in the basement in the Western Conference during last year’s lockout-shortened season.
So beyond their most basic need – an improvement in the on-ice product – they also need an injection of pizzazz. Enter Patrick the Entertainer. In a single night’s work, Roy got people talking hockey again.
Colorado showed the bones of a potentially high-scoring team, able to run three solid lines Wednesday. Returning from an injury that limited him to two games last season, Steve Downie rode shotgun on the top line with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly and looked like a great fit. Alex Tanguay, who began his NHL career living in Roy’s basement as a teenage prospect, contributed three assists and a steadying presence on the team’s power play.
And best of all, after Roy’s outburst, things quieted down quickly and didn’t get out of hand.
Good. The last thing the league needed was a stupid bloodbath a day after the George Parros-Colton Orr fight that left Parros with a concussion and out cold on the ice.
Roy retired from the NHL in 2003, with the most regular-season wins in NHL history (551, since surpassed by Martin Brodeur). He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2006, but unbelievably, has been gone from the NHL for a full decade.
After all that time, it’s nice to see St. Patrick back – as loud and as brash as ever.