EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — New York Islanders veteran fourth-line winger Cal Clutterbuck grew up in a French-Canadian household in Welland, Ontario in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He rooted for the Montreal Canadiens, much like the rest of his family, and amongst the players he idolized most was their goaltender, Patrick Roy.
That was, until the Canadiens traded the two-time Stanley Cup-winning netminder to the Colorado Avalanche in December of 1995.
“When Patrick got traded to Colorado, I became an Avalanche fan,” Clutterbuck said. “I was always a fan of Joe Sakic, but I was a big fan of the Avalanche after [Roy] got there.”
Clutterbuck got watch as Roy went on to win two more Stanley Cups in Colorado to complement a career that also featured three Vezina Trophies, 151 playoff wins, and 551 regular-season wins that landed him in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Fast-forward a few decades and Roy is now Clutterbuck’s head coach, taking over the reins of the Islanders on Saturday after the team fired Lane Lambert.
“[Roy] was a big deal in my household. I just talked to my mom last night and she was saying that all of my aunts and cousins are texting her asking about the whole situation,” Clutterbuck said. “I was laughing, she didn’t want to bother me, but they were all very excited. He was definitely a big household name.”
There are probably some members of the Clutterbuck family vicariously living through the Islanders’ forward, who has built an commendable NHL career himself. He’s played in over 1,000 career games and is the NHL’s all-time leader in hits.
But the 17-year veteran isn’t one to get lost in the fanfare anymore — even if his younger self might have been left starstruck if he was told that one day he’d get to play for one of his idols.
“I am a 36-year-old man at this point so my focus is on the team and winning,” Clutterbuck said. “My brain is more in that train of thought rather than who he was to me as a six-year-old. But it’s definitely cool to get to meet him and give this a try together.”
What they’re trying together is getting the Islanders out of their rut and firmly entrenched into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. New York had lost eight of their previous 10 games before the decision was made to bring in Roy, which included an active four-game losing streak.
They started out on the right foot on Sunday night by defeating a solid Dallas Stars team 3-2 in overtime — sparked by the trademark passion and intensity that Roy brings.
“Just by human nature and circumstance, things are definitely different when someone else comes in,” Clutterbuck said. “Everyone feels like they have something to prove again. I think everyone gets a renewed sense of energy from that. That’s not uncommon with any coaching change or trade. Those things are done to inject life into a group of guys that are underachieving.”