If you were to take any person who has been a fan of the Montreal Canadiens for at least 20 years, and ask them who the worst goaltending in the history of the organization was, you’d probably get only one answer.
AKA: Red Light Racicot.
I used to be one of them. My only real memory of Racicot comes from a game he started against the New York Rangers back in the early 1990s. I remember him letting in 10 goals in a 10-5 loss. I remember Montreal being down 5-2, coming back to tie the game, and then losing when Racicot started playing horribly the rest of the way.
How vivid is that memory? I remember parts of it in such detail, that I thought I was misremembering (in the words of Roger Clemens), until I found a list of Andre Racicot’s games. And sure enough, on Dec. 12, 1992, it’s right there. A 10-5 loss.
But really, was Racicot that bad a goalie?
Sure, he let in 10 goals in one game. But he was only one of six goalies to allow 10 goals in a game that season (the others were Mike Richter, Jeff Hackett, Wendell Young, Arturs Irbe and Steve Weeks). From 1987 until now, a goalie has allowed 10 goals in one game 24 times. Roland Melanson, who ended up replacing Racicot, had it happen three times.
Or look at this stat. From 1987 until now, a goalie has allowed at least eight goals in a game 250 times. That’s crazy when you when you think about it. So it’s not like complete blowouts doesn’t happen often.
Of course, none of this includes any games where goalies were switched, and a total of eight goals were scored in one game by one team. So it happens.
For every bad game you can find by a goalie, you can easily find some gems. A 0-0 shutout against the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 11, 1993. A 42-save 5-1 victory over the Islanders on March 10 of 1993.
Most people forget this, but in 1992-93, Racicot was pretty decent, despite the 10-goal game. His record was 17 wins, five losses and one tie. His goals against was 3.39 and his save percentage was 0.881. Those numbers sound high, but they’re actually good when you look at the era.
One two goalies who played more than 25 games had a goals against average of under 3. And only five goals had a save percentage of over .900. So in essence, Racicot was a good goalie for his era. Not great, but good.
When you look at the rest of Racicot’s numbers, they’re actually half-decent for the era (pre-neutral zone trap, post 200-point seasons).
If you were to compare Patrick Roy’s numbers to Andre Racicot’s numbers that year, they actually weren’t far off. Roy had a goals against of 3.20 and a save percentage of .894. Yes, Roy played against a number of top teams, but he also had the opportunity to pad his stats against some bad teams.
Most people forget this, but a poll in a Montreal newspaper in 1993 showed that a majority of people were in favour of trading Patrick Roy. This is from a Sports Illustrated article.
Roy, who lives in the Montreal suburb of Rosemere, was troubled by a poll taken in January by a local paper in which a majority of the respondents thought he should be traded. Those rumblings increased when the Canadiens dropped the first two games to Quebec in the Adams Division semifinals, and Roy’s critics could point out that he had allowed soft goals in both defeats. NORDIQUES WIN GAME, BATTLE OF GOALIES read one headline. The subhead added, [Quebec goalie Ron] HEXTALL GETS BETTER OF ROY.
Demers resisted calls to start backup Andre Racicot in Game 3 and stayed true to a preseason promise that he would stand behind Roy all season.
Outside of the NHL, Racicot was named to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Second All-Star Team in 1989, and the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award (the AHL award for the fewest goals against) in 1990 (shared with Jean-Claude Bergeron).
There are plenty of goalies with career numbers than Racicot. Why does no one remember Frank Pietrangelo as a bad goalie. Or Wendell Young? Or Darren Pang? Or Pat Jablonski? Or Peter Sidorkiewicz? They all have worse numbers than “Red Light”. In fact, there are 94 goalies that have played more than 50 games that have a worse goals-against-average than Racicot.
So why does history remember Racicot as one of the worst goalies of all-time?
My guess is that it all comes down to the 1993 playoffs. With Patrick Roy leading the Habs to another Stanley Cup, and winning a Conn Smythe, it made Racicot seem that much worse in comparison. Then, as Roy won more Stanley Cups, Vezina trophies, his legend grew, and because of that, it made his backups look worse and worse.
Plus, with goalies now-a-days being a different breed (many backups could be starters thanks to positioning and bigger equipment), goalies from the early 1990s seem that much worse.
But really, Racicot wasn’t that bad of a goalie. And maybe it’s time people stop referring him as “Red Light”.
(Wondering what happened to Racicot? He’s looking for gold in the north. Read more here.)