When the Montreal Canadiens traded Patrick Roy to the Colorado Avalanche, they didn't just trade away one of hockey's greatest goaltenders. In hindsight, they also traded away Canada's most storied prize—the Stanley Cup.
This leads me to my question. I know that all NHL rosters feature mostly Canadian-born players, but that shouldn't take away from the fact that Canada, the country that pioneered hockey, still hasn't had a franchise reach the sport's summit since Patrick Roy and the Canadiens did in 1993. We all know about The Curse of the Great Bambino and are repeatedly reminded that the Leafs own the longest cupless drought, but what of The Curse of Casseau or St. Patrick's Vodoo?
Patrick Roy with the Habs
I don't think that Avalanche fans will ever truly comprehend the way Roy was viewed among fans in Canada. Not since the great Ken Dryden had a netminder stole the hearts of the NHL's oldest franchise. He led his club to a Stanley Cup victory and won the Conn Smyth Trophy in his rookie season at just 20 years old. Roy also won the Vezina in 1989, 1990, and 1992 and lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1989.
In 1993, he led the Habs to a Stanley Cup victory after beating the Ron Hextall-backed Quebec Nordiques (a little foreshadowing) in a first-round series in which the Nordiques coach famously said they had Roy figured out. He responded by winning the next 11 playoff games beating the Nordiques four straight times, sweeping the Sabres in the second round, and winning the first three games of the Eastern Conference Final. He would once again win the Conn Smyth trophy. The following season the Canadiens were eliminated in the first round as Roy battled appendicitis but still managed to play game five against the Boston Bruins.
The Canadiens were just 22 games into the 1995-96 season when Mario Tremblay left Patrick Roy in to receive a sarcastic cheer from his home crowd in the worst loss in Montreal history. The highly decorated goaltender I described in the last two paragraphs was left in the net far too long and allowed nine of eleven tallies. Once he was finally pulled in the second period, Patrick Roy walked past Tremblay and Habs president Ronald Corey, received a more than disrespectful glare from Tremblay, doubled back to the president, and hit him with, "It's my last game in Montreal." He was traded shortly after to the newly minted Colorado Avalanche, formerly the Quebec Nordiques. Funny, Roy was a Nordiques fan growing up and naturally wasn't keen on the Canadiens, to begin with.
Mario Tremblay was very critical of Roy in his radio career following his NHL days, and it was widely known that the two of them did not have the most significant relationship when Mario became the head coach of the Habs just four games into the 1995-96 season.
Tremblay poked at Roy's accent while speaking English and allegedly shot a puck at Roy's throat during a practice session. Hindsight begs the question, why on earth did the Canadiens hire that guy? I don't have to tell you that the Habs haven’t won anything since. I've been alive for 30 years and change, and I've never, repeat, never seen a Canadian Cup winner. It’s worth mentioning that between 1983-1993 a Canadian franchise won the Cup eight times! It’s not like the writing was on the wall.
Reverse the Curse
We all know what happened next. Patrick Roy's time as a Colorado Avalanche spurred on an era of championship success for the Avalanche and created one of the league's most loyal and passionate fanbases. One that included a ten-year-old kid who regrettably but openly cried when the Avs lost to the Red Wings in 2002 after the Statue of Liberty blunder. That matchup became one of the games' most storied rivalries, and that same kid grew up to contribute to a sports blog dedicated explicitly to covering his favorite team. Maybe we do know how much Canadians loved Patrick Roy after all.
20 years ago today: Patrick Roy vs. Chris Osgood in one of the greatest goalie fights of all time pic.twitter.com/IvfsJRDQyp— Gino Hard (@GinoHard_) April 1, 2018
So how do these Canadian teams reverse the curse? It all comes down to those foreshadowing elements, so let's consider what could be on the table. The Leafs keep getting stimied, and the world loves it. Roy also jumped ship in Colorado as a coach, and Jared Bednar ushered in a new era of success. Maybe Roy needs to go back and coach in Canada, and he is a Nord at heart. The Arizona Coyotes are playing in a college arena. Perhaps that franchise requires relocation? Arizona becomes the Quebec Nordiques, and Patrick Roy is named the head coach. Avs won the cup their first year after relocating from Quebec, so the New Nordiques would naturally do the same, especially with Auston Matthews as their captain.
I know I got a little carried away. Still, imagine how this sentence would have been accepted by a Habs fan in 1993, "Over the next three years, the Nordiques will draft and trade Eric Lindros, relocate to Colorado, and be led by Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy to a Stanley Cup in their first year of existence." I'm almost sure I would have been laughed out of the bar and left to drink my brewski with the alley cats.
EDITORS NOTE: It's also worth mentioning that Wayne Gretzky went from leading the Oilers to leading the Kings in a similar timeframe, and that fact likely has a lot to do with the shift in power dynamic to American-based teams.