by Shauna Denis @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com
November 22nd, 2018
MONTREAL – On November 22, 2008, Patrick Roy returned home.
One of the greatest clutch performers in NHL history, Roy saw his No. 33 raised to the rafters in Montreal 13 years after he played his final game as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
There was no shortage of symbolism involved in the ceremony, beginning with the date itself, November 22 – or 11/22 – which, when added together, is 33.
Throughout the festivities leading up to the team’s Centennial celebration on December 4, 2009, whenever possible, jersey retirements were scheduled on dates that reflected the jersey number of the player being honored. For example, Bob Gainey’s No. 23 was retired on Feb. 23, 2008, Ken Dryden’s No. 29 was honored on Jan. 29, 2007, and Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer’s No. 12s were taken out of circulation on November 12, 2005.
The 14th player to have his jersey retired by the Canadiens in franchise history, Roy still recalls the feeling he had the first time he donned that iconic sweater in 1985.
“It’s a privilege to be able to pull on that jersey. The first time I walked into the dressing room, it was impressive. Just looking around the room and soaking in the history that comes with the logo, the players who had worn that jersey before me, the Hall-of-Famers, there’s so much history there,” shared Roy, who won two Stanley Cups and two Conn Smythe Trophies during his time in Montreal, first as a rookie in 1986 and then again in 1993. “Coming from Quebec, I was proud even just to have an opportunity to try to make the team. From that first day at training camp, wearing that jersey was a dream come true.”
Roy’s ceremony was a homecoming of sorts for the legendary netminder, whose return marked the first time he had been back since his bitter departure from the organization following the infamous 11-1 loss to the Red Wings on Dec. 2, 1995, that resulted in a trade to Colorado four days later.
The night fittingly began with Roy coming in from outside the Bell Centre, walking in through the doors of the building to a thunderous applause from the Montreal faithful, snaking his way through the concourse, down through the stands, past fellow legend Jean Beliveau and onto the ice.
“Thank you most of all to you, the fans,” he said near the end of his speech that evening. “Thank you for demanding we play every game as though it were the last. Thank you for looking at every win like a small piece of history.
“I’ll always remember and appreciate your cheers and your support,” he continued. “Of course, I’ll never forget the day I left a little too quickly, without saying goodbye the way I would have liked. But I’ll also remember those nights where we made the Forum shake and sent shockwaves throughout Montreal. As your cheers now go straight to my heart, as you honor me tonight by retiring my jersey, and as you welcome me now like you did on my first day, my friends, tonight, I’m coming home.”
A fiery competitor and a pioneer of the butterfly style, Roy also inspired a generation of French-Canadian netminders during his decorated career, something symbolized during the ceremony itself.
As Roy finished his speech and walked down the red carpet from center ice towards the goal crease where his banner was waiting to be raised, his path was lined with 11 young goaltenders dressed in the jerseys of some of those NHL legends he had helped groom. Kids representing Felix Potvin, Martin Biron, Jose Theodore, Patrick Lalime, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mathieu Garon, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Roberto Luongo, and Martin Brodeur, in addition to Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price, the Canadiens’ two current puckstoppers at the time, fist bumped Roy during his route to the blue paint.
He was joined for the banner raising by then-captain Saku Koivu, Halak, and Price, who recently surpassed Roy for second place on the Canadiens’ franchise leaderboard for wins by a Canadiens netminder.