EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Where the Islanders are heading, Patrick Roy is royalty.
The head coach who has been at the helm for less than a week returns to his old stomping grounds in Montreal to face his former team, the Canadiens, on Thursday night in what will be his third game at the helm of the Islanders.
On Wednesday, he already decided that his team won’t have a morning skate, which is a pregame opportunity for the media to speak with Roy and his players.
“We just don’t want to have distractions. No morning skate in Montreal,” Roy said. “They’re going to stay at the hotel and they’re going to be focused. I don’t want this to be about me. I want this to be about the Islanders. We’re going there to win a hockey game.”
Regardless, it’s expected that the Canadiens will do what they can to roll out the red carpet for Roy, who spent parts of 12 seasons in Montreal from 1984-1995. He won two Stanley Cups and all three of Vezina Trophies with the team before his relationship with the coach and front office disintegrated to the point of famously demanding a trade during the 1995-96 season.
Roy was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche where he won two more Stanley Cups while cementing himself as one of the greatest goalies in NHL history. His 289 wins with the Canadiens rank third in franchise history behind Carey Price and the legendary Jacques Plante.
He’s also the only Canadiens goaltender to win the Stanley Cup since the league expanded to 21 teams in 1979. Despite his falling out with then-head-coach Mario Tremblay and team president Ronald Corey, Roy had his No. 33 retired by the Canadiens in 2003.
The French-Canadian media took a vested interest in Roy’s return to the NHL after he was hired by the Islanders on Saturday. It ended a seven-and-a-half-year NHL coaching hiatus after he left the bench of the Avalanche in 2016, and multiple outlets from the region made their way down to Long Island to speak with him.
That would only intensify within the city limits of Montreal.
“We’re not going there to win for the coach. It’s for our team,” Roy said. “That’s the reason why I don’t want us to go to that morning skate. They’re going to ask questions about me. I don’t need it and they don’t need that.”