Patrick Roy may have only played four games against Guy Lafleur, but the three goals he allowed to Guy Lafleur captured the imagination.
On February 4, 1989, Lafleur scored twice against Roy in what was the return of the “Blonde Demon” to the Forum, he who had come out of a three-year retirement to evolve with the New York Rangers. Then on March 30, 1991, Lafleur, then in a Quebec Nordiques uniform, got the better of Roy again in the penultimate game of his career, and his very last in the legendary Montreal amphitheater.
“Lucky I haven’t faced him more often,” Roy said Friday, hours after learning of Lafleur’s death at the age of 70 after a long battle with lung cancer.
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Roy remembered his very first training camp with the Montreal Canadiens, in 1984, he who had been drafted a few months earlier in the third round (51st). In the locker room, he found himself four places behind Lafleur, who was 14 years older than him.
Fate willed Roy to become the next big French-speaking star of the Canadiens, after Lafleur, Jean Béliveau and Maurice Richard.
“I’ll be honest, I was really intimidated,” Roy said. I’ve been watching it on TV every Saturday night for years, and suddenly I’m in the same locker room? All I could say was ‘wow!’ He only needed 10 minutes to get dressed, he was barely wearing shoulder pads. Many young people wanted to imitate him and act like him.
“As a kid, every Saturday night, you saw him play on TV, then we would go down the hall of my parents’ house and we would become the Lafleurs, Ken Dryden, all these players. They were our idols. I would even say more than idols, mentors. I think Guy had an incredible impact and influenced a lot of people’s lives.
“I knew that Guy was sick, we knew that his days were numbered, but we always came to say to ourselves: ‘Heille, it’s Guy Lafleur. He’s gonna find a way to beat this. The news hurt. It’s truly sad. »
Roy, who is the general manager and coach of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, has in mind a different way to pay tribute to Lafleur in the days to come, both in the NHL and in all other arenas. Not with a moment of silence, but rather with a huge ovation to thank the “Blonde Demon” for all these great moments he gave to the fans.
“I know that when someone dies, you observe a moment of silence in their honor and remember their life. But I think Guy Lafleur was such a legend, someone who made a difference in the lives of so many people. He deserves a standing ovation. He deserves to see people speak up to show their love for him, how much they appreciated him, and that they watched hockey to see him in action. »
Roy will have been Lafleur’s teammate for only a brief moment during this training camp. The number 10 took his first retirement a few months later, in November 1984. But Roy remembered the positive impression left by the legendary striker.
“When Guy spoke with me, he was always very genuine and kind. Yvan Cournoyer recently pointed out that Guy was a very good teammate. Ivan is right. Guy was trying to help his teammates.
“My dad reminded me today that Guy never wore a C or an A on his Canadiens jersey. He never complained about it and never mentioned it. Guy was a good team guy. He perfectly fulfilled the role he had on the trio of Jacques Lemaire and Steve Shutt. They were dominant. Maybe he was a silent leader, but he was a leader on this club, there is no doubt. The players had so much respect for him. »
The last time Roy had a good chat with Lafleur was in the fall of 2020, just before Lafleur’s lung cancer returned after being in remission for a brief time.
“We sat together in Quebec and it was a really pleasant discussion,” he said. We went in depth talking about the sport, and how it felt. I’m glad I had this conversation with him.
“He was sincere. He said what he had in the back of his mind and he assumed his opinions. I love this kind of person because I’m a bit like that. It’s one of the things I respected the most about him. »
He also had a lot of respect for her loyalty to her roots. Lafleur spent two seasons with the Quebec Remparts, and his 223 goals and 319 points in 118 games allowed him to be named the best player of the first 50 seasons in QMJHL history, in 2019.
“Guy was an incredible ambassador for the Remparts concession. He was always available. What always impressed me about him is that he always remembered where he came from, his roots, and I have a lot of respect for that. Whenever the Remparts needed him, he was there. It would have been difficult to find a better ambassador than him. And he is probably the best player in the history of the Remparts. »