Dear, M. Roy,
On behalf of the Colorado Avalanche fan base, I would personally like to welcome you back to Colorado, and to the Avalanche family. A lot has transpired in your ten year absence, and your presence has been sorely missed. We all wish you success and happiness in your new role, even if it's only for our own selfish agenda.
Now that I've said that, on to more pressing matters. I wish that I could end this on the first paragraph, but as I suspect you already know, things have changed and times have darkened in Denver since you bid us adieu in 2003. Frankly, we need a savior. Again.
As a 15 year old hockey fan and a budding hockey player, I was eager to learn the game, and excel at it. Prior to 1995, hockey did not have a giant foothold in the hearts of the Colorado sports fan or player. Teams had come and gone, mostly minor leagues, and there were a few places to play if you didn't mind driving. I'll admit, I was hesitant to embrace the newly-relocated Avalanche at first. You see, I had just gotten attached to our new IHL team, the Denver Grizzlies, and despite winning the Turner Cup in their first year of existence, they were quickly cast aside, to the darkest depths of Utah, in order to make room for the new NHL franchise.
We weren't even in love with the name at first, but compared to what could have been (Rocky Mountain X-Treme? Really, mid-90's?), it would do. I started to open my heart to the Avalanche, after seeing the logo, then the uniforms on the ice, competing against the teams that I knew. Earlier that year, I saved all my birthday money, and allowance, and bought my first set of barely safe hockey equipment, and imagined myself as the next Gretzky. Those plans got put on hold in December of 1995, however. Although we knew that our new (some might say stolen) team had a shot at being respectable, most of us were not dreaming of the Stanley Cup Parade in Denver that year. I remember the chatter of the cafeteria of my high school, which had to suffice in the days before Twitter...."Did you hear? The Avs just traded for Patrick Roy!"
Shamefully, I must admit that most of that chatter did not come with correct pronunciation. I'm sure you've gotten used to that since leaving Montreal, and in their defense, they learned how to pronounce your name properly VERY soon after that. When you came to town, you captured our imaginations, and gave people a reason to care about Colorado hockey. There was such a sense of awe about you, a mystique, and an identity that was lacking in people's perceptions of the Avalanche at the time. In hindsight, it's difficult to imagine overlooking Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, and so many others, but it was reality in 1995. All three of those hall of famers could have walked through any mall in the state without a second glance, much less a mob of autograph seekers.
Not only did you prove to be worth even more than the massive hype from the newspapers and sports channels, you helped deliver a gift to the city of Denver that not even the mighty John Elway had been able to at that point. A Championship. A Parade. A pride in being a hockey fan, a Colorado Avalanche Hockey Fan.
As so many kids did in those days, I bought your jerseys, and your posters, and collected your cards. I wore my Patrick Roy replica jersey underneath my graduation gown in 1997, and painted the team logo on the cap. People didn't even have to ask what I wanted for birthdays and Christmas anymore. Avalanche. Roy. Anything. I sold my cheap hockey gear, and decided I wanted to be a goalie from that point on. I slowly pieced together a workable set of goalie gear, including a replica of your Canadiens helmet that wasn't safe enough to protect me from a fresh bagel being shot at my head. All I cared about was looking enough like Patrick Roy to be allowed on the ice, and for people to fear me, for my mentor was the greatest ever. Once I had a job and my own money, I had become a serviceable enough goalie for pick up games on the lake, and some very disorganized rink play, so I saved enough to buy your actual equipment. Well, not YOURS, but identical in quality and color (Black, blue and white Koho, if you're wondering, circa 1998-2000). Now, I wasn't even close to being good enough to warrant that purchase, but I wanted to be you on the ice. I always hopped over the lines when skating out, I perfected the statue of liberty save for the rare occasion that I actually made a save. I think I even subconsciously developed some of the facial tics, and head bobs as a result of me watching so much video of how you played the game.
My very long winded point is this: You inspired myself, and so many hockey fans, young and old in those days. You made a whole city believe in a team, and know the joy of sharing a championship, not once, but twice. You made children want to play like you, and adults pay absurd amounts of money in equipment to be mistaken for you on the ice. There's nothing that I could say that hasn't been echoed by thousands, if not millions throughout your playing career.
It wasn't just the fact that you were the greatest goaltender in the game, and you won two Stanley Cups for us. What captivated us the most was your intensity, and your competitive attitude. Anybody can buy some expensive pads and stand in front of a net, and stop a few pucks (I stopped at least three in my time, four if you count the one that caromed off of my throat protector and knocked me unconscious.) but YOU... you could WILL pucks away from the back of the net. If you made up your mind to not lose, chances are, you were not losing (just ask Melanie Brodeur). Your fire and your desire for excellence and utter comtempt for mediocrity made you my hero, and my role model.
Since you hung up your skates in the Pepsi Center for the last time, that void alone has defined the state of our beloved team for ten years. We stuck through as fans, because that's what you're supposed to do. I was a Patrick Roy fan, and an Avalanche fan, and I'm thankful that I never had to pick between the two. We still had some of our other heroes to cover for you: We still had Joe, Peter, Adam, Milan and others. We tried to believe in David Aebischer, Peter Budaj, Jose Theodore, Craig Anderson, and we're still trying to believe in young Varlamov. We try not to hold it against them that they aren't you, because, well, nobody else ever will be. We just miss trusting that when our enemies take a shot at our net, that it's unlikely to cause them to celebrate.
We've slowly come to accept mediocrity from this club. As fans, as coaches, as owners. We accept that all empires must rebuild, and it takes time. We accept that we have talented kids looking to break out, any year now. Worst of all, we have accepted that not completely forsaking the last few games of a lost season shows pride and hope. This is why we needed you back, Patrick.
We need you back, not because we define ourselves as fans by how many championships we have, although more would be great. No, we need you back to show our young talent what being a winner means on and off the ice, and what true effort and devotion to greatness looks like. Some of them have never tasted it. They think that showing up at the rink, skating a few laps, and a few bag skates are the recipe for Cup Souffle. Our fans, especially our young ones, are only fans because we as their parents stuck them in an Avalanche jersey since they could sit upright. They don't know why they should be, and haven't been given much of a reason to be in a long time, in some cases, a lifetime.
I hate to put this on you, since you've already done so much for us. You can be the hero we need, even if we don't deserve it. Many of us will never forget the feeling of those Cup wins, and the pride in watching you play for us. You were never one to back down from a challenge, and this might be your greatest one yet. Save us from mediocrity and apathy, and deliver us unto the near forgotten land, of pride, joy, and hope. Show your kids on the roster, and our kids in the stands that winning isn't as important as unwavering effort, rather a by-product of it. I've missed the excitement that came with being a fan of this club, and I'm tired of living in the past. 1996 and 2001 were great years, but I had almost as much fun in those years when we lost, because I knew that we were still a great team to be proud of. Now that I've lived through both eras, I'd rather lose my hope in the matter of one second, on one lucky shot in a Playoff Game 7, than lose it in December after two months of slowly watching a season fade off of life support. In the first scenario, hope is immediately replenished at the start of the next season.
Save us, Patrick... one more time. You'll probably notice a lot fewer screaming fans in the Ol' Can since you last took the ice, especially ones wearing OUR jerseys, but they'll be back. They just need a reason to believe again, and we believe that you can make us and your new team do just that.
An Avalanche Fan,
also known as Roynnabe33
(quick note: This was my AOL screen name and email for over 8 years. I retired it, along with its namesake 10 years ago this month. I will always Roynna be like #33, and now it's time to make it relevant again.)