It's not a cliché to say that hockey in Montreal is a religion. It's a course credit. Beginning in January, the University of Montreal's faculty of theology will offer a graduate course called The Religion Of The Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens have always led the league in use of religious terminology. They wear a jersey dubbed the Saint Flannelle (The Holy Flannel), they've captured the Holy Grail 24 times. Guy Lafleur was known as Le Demon Blond. The new starting goalie was born Carey Price but some fans have taken to calling him Jesus Price. How's that for pressure from the congregation?
The saints to whom the devout pray have their names and numbers listed in the rafters of the Bell Centre. On Saturday they will be joined by Patrick Roy. Add Saint Patrick to the long list of legendary nicknames. The Flower, The Rocket, Le Gros Bill, The Stratford Streak, Boom Boom, The Road Runner and more.
But Saint Patrick Roy might have been more sinner than saint. Patrick Roy had a temper as quick as his reflexes. It found him trouble on and off the ice. His feud with coach Mario Tremblay, a former teammate, forced him out of Montreal. On December 2, 1995 Tremblay left Roy in for 9 goals on 26 shots, in an 11-1 loss to Detroit. Roy was furious. He was sure the coach intended to humiliate him. When Tremblay finally pulled Roy from the net in the 2nd period, the goalie swore to team president Ronald Corey he would never play again for the Canadiens. He never did. Three days later he was traded to Colorado. It's a candidate for worst trade in Canadiens history.
By the laws of the Catholic church, Roy comes by his Sainthood honestly. The church demands two miracles before earning the name Saint. Roy performed his in 1986 and 1993, with astounding performaces taking underdog Canadien's teams to the Stanley Cup.
It's fair to say that without his divine intervention, Montreal's cup drought would be approaching 30 years. When he left, the Stanley Cups left with him. He won two more in Colorado while Montreal hasn't come close since. Call it the Curse of St. Patrick.
He also led a goaltending revolution, making the "butterfly" standard puckstopping stye. A generation of young goalies including J.S. Giguere, Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo and Jose Theodore mimiced his style.
So how should he be remembered along side the rest of the Canadien stars? Michel Roy, Patrick's father, might know best. He has written a biography of his famous son, just recently translated into English. It's called Patrick Roy: Winning, Nothing Else.
Count Four Stanley Cups, three Conn Smythe Trophies, the Calder Cup and as a rookie coach, the Memorial Cup, on Roy's trophy case.
Patrick Roy, Patron Saint of Winning, Nothing Else.