Local hockey fans reflect on the loss of a legend
BRECKENRIDGE – One American and two natives of the Czech Republic sat watching Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals Tuesday at a favorite local sports bar. During the first intermission, scenes appeared of Patrick Roy celebrating the first of his four Stanley Cup championships, a 20-year-old rookie hoisting the Cup in a Montreal Canadiens uniform.
Roy, 37, will announce his retirement today, the winningest goalie of all time. But is he the best ever?
“Give me a break,” bellowed the Czechoslovakian, Peter Hroch, who is in Breckenridge helping his American friend Blake Brenner build a house.
Roy doesn’t measure up to Dominik Hasek in terms of pure goaltending skill, the Czech argued. Hasek, also a Czech native, won six Vezina trophies as the league’s best goalie in 12 NHL seasons. If Hasek had the kind of longevity that Roy had, he’d have surpassed Roy’s numbers, Hroch insisted.
Ah, but that’s Roy’s greatness: consistent brilliance over the long haul. His ability to maintain focus on the puck for 82 regular season games, then the playoffs, for 18 straight years has put Roy at the top of the heap.
“Lots of people have physical tools,” said Summit Cove resident Mark Pierson. “It’s who can keep their head in the game time after time after time. That’s mental discipline.”
Roy helped the Avalanche win two Stanley Cup Championships and kept them in the hunt every other year. For Colorado fans, his retirement raises big questions about whether the team’s window of championship opportunity is closing.
“It’s definitely going to weaken the Avs, if nothing else, just the confidence of having somebody like him back there, especially when it comes to the playoffs,” said Dillon resident Rocky Rockford. “He’s the best goaltender of all time, especially in pressure games.”
Roy’s departure leaves his longtime backup, David Aebischer, with large skates to fill. It’s too early to say whether the team will try to sign a veteran starter.
But whoever is in net next year for Colorado, he’ll be following a legend. It’s a familiar situation for Denver sports fans, who watched Brian Griese stumble as the first full-time starting quarterback for the Broncos after John Elway retired.
“Aebischer is not a bad goalie,” Pierson said. “But when you stack him up against Roy, nobody can stay in that class. I think the hard part for the Avs and the fans is to be able to stick with whoever is in there, because, to be able to live up to Roy’s billing is pretty tough.”
Roy will return to his native Quebec and hopes to follow the career of his son, Jonathan, an aspiring goalie. After Colorado’s Game 7 overtime loss to Minnesota in the first round of this year’s playoffs, Roy began to give hints about his future plans. He took several weeks to make up his mind for good.
“He earned the right to be sure whether he wanted to play or retire,” Rockford said. “You don’t want to retire too early, but you don’t want to stay too long. I think with the care he took in his decision, he was sure. And I think that’s why he did it that way, he wanted to make sure.”
Added Pierson: “It’s a sad day for hockey, but it’s probably good for Patrick. He’s accomplished about everything a goalie could ever want to accomplish or even dream of. It’s nice seeing someone go out when they’re still on top.”
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