Written by Habsterix, AllHabs.net

 

PENTICTON, BC. — Sixteen years ago, the Montreal Canadiens, with Réjean Houle as the General Manager, traded all-star goalie Patrick Roy to the Colorado Avalanche along with Mike Keane. In return, the Avalanche sent goalie Jocelyn Thibault along with forwards Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko. To this date, this trade is said to be by many, as one of the biggest steals in NHL history, with then GM Pierre Lacroix as the mastermind. The Avalanche went on to win two Stanley Cups while the Canadiens were struggling to qualify for the playoffs.

But let’s go back in time if we may. After an awful start to the season, then Club President Ronald Corey fired his GM (Serge Savard) and his head coach (Jacques Demers) and that, without even having anyone in mind to replace them with. He named assistant coach Jacques Laperrière as interim head coach on October 21, 1995 and after five consecutive losses, Corey announced to the hockey world the nomination of Réjean Houle as General Manager, and Mario Tremblay as the new head coach — nominations somewhat questionable as neither Houle or Tremblay had any previous experience in those roles.

Right from the start, it wasn’t an easy situation between Roy and Tremblay. Under Demers, Roy was consulted on many topics and he had the entire dressing room to himself. If you had the opportunity to get to know Mario Tremblay, he had the same character and he had a mission to straighten up a team having a terrible start to its season. The two men didn’t see eye to eye and it was reported that it was evident to anyone following the team closely.

On December 2nd of that year, the Detroit Red Wings were the visitors at the old Montreal Forum and they built a comfortable 5-1 lead at the first intermission. A everyone’s biggest surprise, Roy was still in goal to start the second period and it became evident that Tremblay was sending a message: he was the boss and he makes the decisions! With the score 8-1 in the second period, Roy made a routine save and some sarcastic fans (as we know them too well) applauded, a stupid act of derision. At the nine minute mark of that period, Detroit scored a ninth goal and Tremblay finally decided to pull Roy from the game. The goaltender was furious. He took his gloves off and walked by Tremblay, both men eyed each other, not a word exchanged. Roy came back, walked in front of Tremblay and went directly to Ronald Corey, who sat behind the players’ bench, to announce that he had just played his last game in the Habs’ uniform.


In this story, a vast majority of people have always blamed Mario Tremblay for Patrick Roy’s departure from Montreal and they are right, in most respects. However, one must look at both sides of the story before judging. How much blame should Jacques Demers take for giving Roy so much empowerment? Yes, he had won a Stanley Cup with him in goal but was it really what Roy needed? Did he have the same latitude in Colorado with the likes of Sakic, Foote, Forsberg and Blake on the team? I highly doubt it. Who, in a knee-jerk reaction, asked for a trade in front of millions of hockey fans on television? Wouldn’t it have been wiser to walk to the dressing room, have a shower, cool off a bit and ask to talk to Mr. Corey to discuss the situation? Who was the one who let his fans down, including yours truly? Shouldn’t he share at the very least part of the blame for his own actions?

But what I remember most about this whole saga, this sad segment in the Canadiens’ history, is Ronald Corey’s decision to panic and fire Serge Savard and his head coach Jacques Demers and that, without any alternative plan, in October! It is also his decision to put an inexperienced GM and head coach in a situation of failure, in a city like Montreal. Didn’t he know what to expect? I have absolutely no doubt that Houle and Tremblay are great people and that they know their hockey but in Montreal, all the while the Canadiens were having a terrible start to their season, with media and fans on the verge of a breakdown? Really?

In my humble opinion, yes, Mario Tremblay deserves his share of the blame for the way he treated Patrick Roy and this whole situation, but he certainly isn’t the only one to blame for it. A small portion of the blame goes to Mr. Demers for babying St-Patrick. A good part of the blame goes to the person who had this knee-jerk reaction as revenge against his coach, not thinking about the team and his fans who had supported him since his arrival in the NHL. But the biggest part of the blame should be directed towards someone who got away with it for the most part, the one who put everyone in a really difficult situation: his name is Ronald Corey.

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J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.
  • JoshH

    To borrow a line from Robin Williams, ‘thanks for the trip down amnesia lane’
    At the time of this debacle I was a naive 19 year-old, who saw the saga as the Montreal Canadiens vs Patrick Roy. To me, Roy could do no wrong.
    It is interesting to look back now with a bit more perspective and realize, that although there is a lot of blame to go around, Roy had his hand in the trade and really, it was time to go. His personality had become to big for the city and if not for Detroit debacle, I have no doubt that he would not have lasted the season.
    Roy had been placed on such a pedestal, that his downfall in the city was inevitable.
    I just hope Carey can keep his head about him and not become too big for the team.

  • A huge fan of Patrick Roy myself, I fully understand where you’re coming from Josh. I felt betrayed by Tremblay, Roy and the organization and although they have patched the relationship up a bit, it still hurts to think that he should have stayed longer. I still keep my authentic #33 Roy jersey from 1993 close to my heart.

    Having said that, I was (and still am) a huge Mario Tremblay fan for watching him play in the 70’s. No one wore the CH on his sleeve like he did.

  • malmn

    Jesus, this happened over 16 years ago. Man, it happend before many of today’s fans were even born. It’s pretty sad that fans are still talking about something that’s been beat to death time and time again…

    “Who is to blame?”

    Here’s a better question; Who cares?

    The incident is in the past and can’t be changed. Canadiens fans need to get a life and move on.

    • I’m glad YOU moved on, by reading the article. ;-)

      • malmn

        lol! It’s hard to move on when you’re constantly reminded of Roy Incident. You know, there’s SO MUCH great Habs history to dig up and write about that I don’t see why the fans are regularly brought back to that terrible moment in time.

        • History, Habs or otherwise, is based on good and bad situations. The key is to learn from both. If we only remembered the good, we’d be making the same mistakes over and over again.

          • malmn

            I think you missed my point. The Canadiens possess 102 years of history, both good and bad. There’s TONS of it. Why keep bringing up the same story over, and over, and over?

  • I didn’t miss your point at all. It’s the first time I’m bringing up this story and I’ve never read this angle anywhere. If I bring up another story, chances are that it will have been brought up somewhere as well. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    Bottom line, articles are there to be read by those who want to read them. No one has forced anyone to read it… unless the goal is trolling. :)

  • PrintQc

    Ronald Corey is to blame. The number one reason he fired Savard was related to the refusal of Savard to include Corey into his real estate investment group. Corey also feared Savard would eventually move up to the president job. You can’t blame incompetents from being incompetents but you can blame the one who hired them.

    You don’t fire a Stanley Cup winning gm over a missed playoff in a shortened season and a bad start.

  • John

    As much as i would like to pass the blame equally, i can’t… the reason being, and there’s only one reason. Players win Stanley Cups, Not the guys in the suits. Coaches are there to motivate, to bring out the best in players and it was apparent that Mr. Mario Tremblay had no experience in that department. Patrick Roy (arguably the best goalie of his time) did not need ant motivation this being the reason why Mr. Jacques Demers let him be.

    I cant and choose not to forgive, life goes on but remember one thing that since that dude left the habs have not had any legit seasons since.

  • Phil

    Great article!
    I totally agree with you and I like the way you raise questions I didn’t think of before.
    I understand how Roy and Corey are also responsible for this, maybe even Demers, but I was wondering how come everybody seem to have forgiven Tremblay? I understand it’s been a while and everything but I still believe someone who made such a mistake should not be on RDS during habs games, he should have lost his credibility. How can you hear him give opinions on the way coaches should behave when he acted the way he did?
    -Bitter fan

  • Thanks for the comments, folks. Some great insights in there.

    @PrintQc: I had never heard that story about Corey and Savard with the real estate investment group. I did however have wind back then of the fear of Savard moving up the chart.

    @Phil: I don’t think that people have forgiven Tremblay, which is why I chose to write about it. If anything, I think he is too often getting the entire blame when I feel like it should be spread quite a bit more, including the one who let me down with his knee-jerky decision: Roy himself.

  • Mike

    Tremblay was out to get Roy, they had issues in 86 and at long last Tremblay was in a postion of power. As for him not getting the royal treatment with the Avs playing with guys like Sakic, Foote, etc…lets be real he also didnt have to throw them on his back and carry them through. Lastly, yes he did have to demand a trade on televison in front of x amount of hockey fans, he’s french theyre a folk with a flare for the dramatic. Go habs!

  • Al

    If they bring back Roy as coach I am no longer a fan. I still can’t believe they let him in the building for the 100th anniversary let alone let him make a speech.

  • FormerHabsFan

    Patrick Roy was historically a childish hot-head and the most over-rated athlete in the history of sports, and fooled everybody into thinking the Canadiens could not have won those two easy cups, against easy teams, without another decent goaltender. In fact he blew many better opportunities to win cups. This is fact.

    He fooled Demers too. And Demers fed too much to that fraudulent Saint-hood of Roy. And in turn Roy became an even bigger spoiled brat.

    I’m so glad someone like Tremblay stood up to it and realized, just like many others, including Harry Sinden as one example, that Roy is just an ordinary good goaltender and no legend.

    The Canadiens, as a franchise already falling away from the Glory Days would have been even worse with Roy still there. And the Colorado Avalanche would have still won those two cups without him, maybe a third or fourth even.

    Yes, the Avalanche were one very good team, with or without Roy.

  • Cheche

    I enjoyed the article and the journey down memory lane. I agree that Houle and Tremblay had no business getting those role. Inexperience in a town like Montreal is a recipe for disaster. Couple that with a history between Tremblay and Roy beginnig in Roy’s rookie year and the writing was on the wall. That said, you can”t blame Demers for alowing Roy to run the dressing room. After all – he stole 2 cups for the franchise (only one with Demers btw. Jean Perron ran the show in ’86). Tremblay and his ego should take most of the blame. After all he has never been mentioned as a coaching candidate anywhere since being fired by the Habs.