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Answering Montreal's prayers: St. Patrick ascends to the Habs

The beauty of it is, you can say anything you like about him but thanks to all those Stanley Cup rings, he'll never hear about it.

He's too temperamental for the job, too stubborn, too rude and far too full of himself.

He'd also be perfect.

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The very idea of Patrick Roy returning to the fold of the Montreal Canadiens, this time as head coach, was floated earlier this week by a Radio-Canada blogger. Naturally, Patrick Roy denied it and claims the time is not right for him to return to the NHL.

At some point, of course, it will be – and likely sooner than later.

According to the denied report, a deal is looming between Roy – owner, general manager and head coach of the Quebec Remparts junior hockey team – and Geoff Molson, main owner of the fabled-now-dysfunctional Montreal Canadiens.

True or not, it fits. And much sooner than later. Molson has promised outraged fans that the team's next head coach would be bilingual, something that is currently beyond the tongue grasp of interim coach Randy Cunneyworth, who never really asked for the job in the first place.

Cunneyworth ended up behind the bench only after general manager Pierre Gauthier had fired head coach Jacques Martin and was unable to turn to Martin's far-more-experienced assistant Perry Pearn because, well, Gauthier had months earlier fired him, as well.

Given that the Canadiens, winners of 24 Stanley Cups, won't even make the playoffs this year, are burdened with bad deals (Scott Gomez, for example, currently scoring at a $3.75-million-a-goal pace) and have few prospects coming along, Gauthier himself may be shown the door at season's end.

And here's where the 46-year-old Roy makes most sense: in the media rather than on the ice. The Montreal sports media – far more powerful in its constituency than, say, the Ottawa media in federal politics – have been driven beyond the point of frustration in recent years They have dealt with a GM who doesn't speak (Gauthier), a coach who never says anything (Martin) and an interim coach who can't say anything in French.

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Roy is hard to shut up in both official languages.

The Hall-of-Fame goaltender can be funny. Responding to a complaint by the Chicago Blackhawks Jeremy Roenick that he deserved a penalty shot during the 1996 playoffs, Roy told the media "I can't really hear what Jeremy says, because I've got my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears." A few weeks later he had a third ring, and a fourth by the time he retired.

He can be engaging: remember his wink at the Los Angeles Kings' Tomas Sandstrom during the 1993 Stanley Cup finals – which the Montreal Canadiens won only because of Roy's astonishing success in winning a record 10 successive overtime games.

He has a temper: when he was finally yanked by then coach Mario Tremblay during an 11-1 loss to Detroit on Dec. 2, 1995, Roy raised his arms in triumph, raced to the bench, pushed past Tremblay and went straight to team president Ron Corey to let him know "It's my last game in Montreal." And it was. He was soon traded to Colorado Avalanche in a lopsided deal that many now believe was the start of the Canadiens long years of woe. They have not won a Stanley Cup since he left.

He can be infuriating: refusing to join Canada's 2002 Olympic team in Salt Lake City because he hadn't been chosen one of the "Original Eight" players in the fall. No matter, Canada won the gold medal without him.

He can be stubborn: just ask Martin Brodeur. Roy had been in goal during Canada's shocking loss to Dominik Hasek and the Czech Republic in Nagano in 1998. Roy let in one goal during the famous shootout, Hasek none, forcing Canada to meet Finland for the bronze medal. The decent thing to do would have been to stand aside so the backup could have an Olympic experience. Roy insisted on playing, played half-heartedly and Canada returned from Japan without a medal in men's hockey. Brodeur, who grew up idolizing Roy, would go on to break Roy's NHL records for wins and shutouts.

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He's bizarre: Roy talked to his goal posts while playing, refused to skate over the red line and bluelines on the ice, kept a photograph of Bobby Orr in a Chicago jersey in his Avalanche locker (surely seeing himself as another all-time great who would later switch teams), would incessantly bounce a puck off the dressing room floor during intermissions.

He comes with a laundry list of personal baggage: arrested for domestic violence while playing in Colorado (case later dismissed), accused of signalling his goaltender son Jonathan to jump an opposing junior goalie, getting in scuffles with opposing fans and even other team executives. ...

And yet, he's a winner.

He won the Calder Cup in his first and only year in the AHL.

He won the Stanley Cup in his first year in the NHL, was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy (his first of three) as the MVP of the playoffs and picked up the nickname that sticks with him still: "St. Patrick."

He won the Memorial Cup – emblematic of the top junior team in the country – in his first year coaching the Remparts.

How can the Canadiens possibly resist?

How, at some point, could he resist?

If only for the sake of the Montreal media.

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About the Author

Roy MacGregor was born in the small village of Whitney, Ont., in 1948. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2002, he worked for the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen, Maclean's magazine (three separate times), the Toronto Star and The Canadian Magazine. More

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