Roy followed a Habs tradition when he left

One thing that really bothers me is when people call Patrick Roy classless for demanding a trade from the Habs years ago.

Patrick isn’t the first Habs superstar to leave the team, but he takes the most grief for it. (Antoine Letarte photo, via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s come up a lot again lately, with Roy being named the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche. It seems to come every few years, whether it’s retiring his jersey, or being in the running for the Habs head coaching position.

In case you don’t know the story, on Dec. 2, 1995, Patrick Roy was left in net for nine goals, as the Habs lost 12-1 to the Detroit Red Wings. When he was pulled, he went past the coach, Mario Tremblay, and told team president Ronald Corey that he would never play a game for Montreal again.

Four days later, he and captain Mike Keane was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for Andre Kovalenko, Martin Rucinsky and Jocelyn Thibault.

Nowadays, a lot of fans remember that game, and still hold a grudge against Roy. I think it’s silly. But people say what Roy did was classless, and goes against the tradition of the Habs organization.

After all, old-time players would never do something like that.

Really? If anything, Roy simply followed a long-honoured tradition of bailing on the team. It doesn’t take long going through the Habs history to find examples of players and coaches turning their backs on the organization.

Here are some of the biggest:

1) Guy Lafleur. When Guy Lafleur left the organization during the middle of the 1984-85 season, he didn’t retire because he was feeling old, worn down or tired of the game. No, he left because he didn’t like the ice time he received from coach Jacques Lemaire. Lafleur asked to be traded, but when told he wouldn’t be, he packed his bags and quit. He made a decision that he would rather not play hockey rather than stay with the Habs organization because of troubles he was having with his coach. Sound familiar? Yet Roy gets chastised while Lafleur is still remembered as a Habs legend.

2) Bernie Boom-Boom Geoffrion. Geoffrion didn’t have ice time to blame for leaving the Habs. No, his was a different reason: the captaincy. Apparently, he was so upset that Beliveau was given the C in 1961 that it gnawed at him until he decided he would rather retire than play for the Habs.

3) Gump Worsley. Roy wasn’t the first goalie to quit on the Habs in the middle of a season. The coach at the time, Claude Ruel, was playing Rogatien Vachon more, and wanted to send Worsley to the minors. He refused and quit the team, eventually deciding to retire.

4) Scotty Bowman. Yes, it’s not just limited to players. After the 1978-79 season, the Habs decided to hire Irving Grundman as general manager. So Bowman quit the team and went to coach the Buffalo Sabres instead.

There’s four good examples of superstars leaving the Habs organization because they weren’t happy with the team, for what ever reason. And I’m sure we could find more if we tried. Yet Roy is the one that takes the brunt of the criticism.

Look, I’m not saying that you can’t be angry at Roy for what he did. But it’s hypocritical to blame him for turning his back on the Habs while not doing the same for the other players who have done the same.

It’s time to forgive Roy for leaving the team.

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