Detroit ends hate-hate relationship with Roy
May 29, 2003
BY MICHAEL ROSENBERG
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
The best goalie in history retired Wednesday. Just ask him.
Patrick Roy was one of the most maddeningly arrogant athletes in memory. He was usually good enough to back it up, and on those occasions when he wasn't good enough, he never admitted it.
Think back to last year's Western Conference finals, Red Wings-Avs, Game 7. Roy gave up six goals on 16 shots. Most goalies, after a performance like that, would spend the next six months curled up on their therapist's couch, weeping and refusing to take off their masks.
Roy acted like it never happened.
"I don't think we necessarily lost tonight," Roy said after that game. "Obviously we lost tonight because it was the fourth loss, but being unable to win more than one game at home in that series was the difference to me. We should have done a lot better in our own arena."
For years, Wings fans just wanted their team to embarrass Roy -- humiliate him in Detroit in the biggest game of the year. The Wings did it, and Roy shrugged it off. Wings fans hated him even more.
Well, no need to hate any more.
He's gone now.
You miss him already, don't you?
This is not easy to admit. But being a sports fan is not just about winning. It is about losing, and the danger of losing -- and nobody presented that danger better than Patrick Roy.
For years, the Red Wings were defined by the Avalanche, and by Roy. They knew it, you knew it, everybody knew it. In 1996, the Wings had the best regular-season record in NHL history. In the playoffs, Roy beat them in six games.
The series ended with Claude Lemieux performing unsolicited plastic surgery on Kris Draper's face, leading to the immortal words of the Wings' Dino Ciccarelli, who said of Lemieux: "I can't believe I shook his (bleeping) hand."
A rivalry was born. The next year, Roy brawled with Wings goalie Mike Vernon. Then the Wings upset the Avs, a victory that was much sweeter because of the disappointment of the year before.
Not long thereafter, Roy brawled with Wings goalie Chris Osgood. How many goalies brawl with the opposing goalie twice? Wings fans hated Roy with every fight, but they feared him, too, because they knew he could ruin their spring.
The enduring image of any season is the final one. Well, check out the final images of the Wings, from 1996 to 2002:
1996: Lost to Colorado. 1997: Won Stanley Cup. 1998: Won Stanley Cup. 1999: Lost to Colorado. 2000: Lost to Colorado. 2001: Lost to Los Angeles. 2002: Won Stanley Cup.
That was one of the most memorable eras ever for a Detroit sports team, and Roy helped shape it without ever calling Detroit home.
Now, it's fair to ask: Is this the end of the Wings-Avs rivalry?
Yes. Most likely. As far as we can tell. See attached disclaimers. But yes.
A year from now, the NHL will light a stick of dynamite and swallow it. A work stoppage is pretty much guaranteed, and play might not resume for months, even a year. When the labor dispute is settled, the league will probably have the nearly socialist financial system it craves. The Wings won't be able to exploit their high payroll -- which is not the only reason they have won, but it's certainly a reason.
What happens after the work stoppage? What would Warren Buffett do if he woke up one day in 1957 Moscow?
It's likely that either the Wings or Avs will slip, and maybe both. The rivalry could disappear.
Before that happens, let's salute Patrick Roy, one of the best goalies of any generation. His greatness legitimized the greatness of others.
Just a quick salute -- thanks for the memories, both good and bad. And if the very sight of him nauseates you, don't worry. You don't have to shake his (bleeping) hand.