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Former Montreal goaltender Patrick Roy walks away before his No. 33 banner is raised to the rafters during a ceremony Saturday night at the Bell Centre. ((Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press))

He may have left as the villain 13 years ago, but Patrick Roy returned to Montreal to a hero's welcome Saturday night.

In front of a sellout crowd at the Bell Centre, Roy took his rightful place among the legends of the storied franchise, becoming the 15th Montreal player to have his number retired.

Surrounded by his family and numerous Hall of Fame Canadiens players, the man who donned the famous the No. 33 saluted the people he played 11 seasons for.

"Thank you for demanding that we play every game as though it were the last," said Roy. "I will remember more [of] those moments where we shook the Forum, where we shook Montreal."

"Your encouragement and applause goes straight to my heart as you honour me."

Roy, who won two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens and still holds or shares six team records, then joined current Montreal players Saku Koivu and Carey Price for the ceremonial raising of the banner.

"Of course, I will remember the day when I left a little too soon without saying goodbye as I would've liked,"

The night Roy speaks of was a regular-season game between the Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings at the fabled Forum on Dec. 2, 1995. Roy allowed nine goals to the Red Wings, but coach Mario Tremblay refused to pull him from the net.

When the furious goaltender finally left the game, he stormed directly to president Ronald Corey, stating he had played his last game for Montreal.

Roy was traded days later to Colorado, where he won two more Stanley Cups and a third Conn Smythe Trophy award as playoff MVP.

But all was forgiven on Saturday night, with the Montreal faithful giving Roy several standing ovations.

"As you welcome me today as you did on the first day my friends… tonight, I'm coming home," Roy concluded.

Roy's ceremony highlights a number of past greats who have had their numbers retired leading up to the Canadiens' 100th anniversary season in December 2009.

Other jerseys hanging from the rafters at the Bell Centre include:

  • Jacques Plante (No. 1)
  • Doug Harvey (2)
  • Jean Beliveau (4)
  • Bernie Geoffrion (5)
  • Howie Morenz (7)
  • Maurice Richard (9)
  • Guy Lafleur (10)
  • Yvan Cournoyer and Dickie Moore (12)
  • Henri Richard (16)
  • Serge Savard (18)
  • Larry Robinson (19)
  • Bob Gainey (23)
  • Ken Dryden (29)

Roy, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, is the sixth player in history to have his number retired by two NHL teams. He was honoured by the Avalanche five years ago.

The Quebec City native still holds Montreal goaltending records for most combined playoff and regular-season games (665) and most minutes played including playoffs (38,882).

With files from the Canadian Press