Friday, August 29, 2008

The Last Legend

He may not have been the last Hall-of-Famer to play for the Habs (that'd be Gilmour in my books). There will be more, but, he is the last legend this franchise of legends has produced so far.

Now, it seems, the organisation is ready to honour his play in Montreal by retiring his number. Yes, according to reports, Patrick Roy's 33 will hang from the highest reaches of the Bell Centre – a building he never played in as a Canadien, though the team had probably hoped he would.

Personally, I think this retirement (should it indeed go ahead) will be a triumph for the younger generation of Habs fans, whose championships are constantly being slighted by nostalgics and aging journos. It can be the "Ours are as worthy as yours" (or something "yours") to the Red Fishers of Montreal fandom who seldom praise anything the Canadiens have done since 1979. For those of us with just as much passion for this team as anyone born in the 1930s, it will be nice to see a number from our less foggy memories.

I, for one, am proud of the mini modern dynasty that the Canadiens put together from 1986 to 1993. Now we know that 3 Cup finals and 2 Cups in 8 years is a difficult achievement, now that there are more than 5 (I generously include the Rangers here) challengers. Detroit is being widely praised for much the same, though they did 4 Cups and 5 finals over 15 years. In a way, the Habs once again blazed the trail for the league – putting the consecutive Cup era to bed. And, I make no mistake, that team was built on and succeeded because of one Patrick Roy. From his precocious heroics in '86 to his psych-out excellence in '89 and '93, he was masterful. His number deserves recognition, as no one else could wear it the same way again.

When will it be?

Assuming the retirement does go ahead, the next logical question is when. Robert L seems to think it will be happening on November 24 against the Islanders. I think I see the meaning there: 24th for the 24th Cup, maybe? Still that choice would leave a lot to be desired.

I thought we should consider the alternatives:

1) Considering we often lose on these ceremonious occasions, why not pick a team we are unlikely to beat anyway? I mean, we don't want to lose to the Isles, do we? I'd say Sharks, Feb. 28 for one we stack up poorly for.

2) How about the 33rd game instead of the 24th? The 33rd game of the season is a home game vs. Carolina on December 21st (Roy vs. Hartford was always key). The 33rd home game is vs. the Devils on March 14th.

3) I don't like the idea of holding on St. Patrick's Day, mainly because despite it being a much-used nickname for Patrick Roy, the day is there to honour a real saint, not a hot-head goalie. The 14th of March would be a compromise like the parade, which seldom happens on the day and has little to do with the religious feast day anymore. The parade would be the 15th.

4) Flames at home on December 9th? A very very obvious choice. Roy faced the Flames twice in Stanley Cup finals with the Canadiens. They were the Canadiens western rivals at the time (mainly because we always stumbled when the Oilers didn't).

5) Anniversaries are always fun. As it happens, the Canadiens have a long home stand coinciding with all the important dates from 1995, including Roy's last game and the day he was traded. Perhaps not the irrelevant Thrashers on the dark anniversary of the Red Wings debacle (December 2nd), but how about the Devils on the anniversary of that awful Thibault trade (December 6th)?

6) Incidentally, December 4th against the NY Rangers will mark the actual date when the centennial season begins – I'm sure they'll have something planned, but if not, how about a sweater raising?

If it's up to me, I go for the Flames game.

It seems to tick most boxes. We will probably not miss the points, as we are poor against western opposition (maybe we can arrange an OTL??). They are a relevant opponent. And, the time of year is meaningful for Roy and the Canadiens to finally bury the hatchet. Call it the anniversary of the day Roy played his next game after his cooling off (in that parallel universe where we had a qualified GM and coach).

Heck, even the headline writers will be happy to have all the flame idioms to choose from.

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