Conroy saw rage up close

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

DENVER -- Craig Conroy twice experienced the wrath of Patrick Roy.

On his first day on the ice as a rookie with the Montreal Canadiens, a high shot in warmup brought about a confrontation with the Hall-of-Fame goaltender.

Conroy was also on the bench when Roy reached his boiling point with the Habs and coach Mario Tremblay before a trade sent him to the Colorado Avalanche four days later.

"It was tension on the bench, tension in the locker-room, tension everywhere," recalled Conroy, who played about a dozen games with Roy over two seasons with the Habs. "For a young guy, it was overwhelming."

After walking past Tremblay to Canadiens president Ronald Corey's rinkside seat that fateful night in 1995 and heatedly announcing he'd never play for the team again after finally being pulled with the score reaching 9-1 in an embarrassing shelling at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, an angry Roy got his wish.

Returning to Montreal tomorrow to watch his No. 33 jersey lifted to the rafters, all will be righted again.

"I was there for the unfortunate game, saw the end of the Patrick Roy era, but he deserves to be recognized by them for what he did for the organization," said Conroy. "Probably if they could've taken it back, they would have kept him."

The incident was fuelled by Roy's passion and pride. Conroy says he's never seen a more competitive, outspoken, passionate and fiery goaltender.

"He intimidated me quite a bit, actually, for a young guy," Conroy said with a laugh.

That started early. The two had a rocky beginning as teammates.

"It was actually my very first day on the ice. Patrick was on my team for the scrimmage," said Conroy, who was a little excited in warmup and watched his first shot at Roy get away from him.

"It kept rising and hit him in the head. He kind of stopped everything, cleared off his crease, then he came out and actually punched me in the head with his blocker.

"I thought, 'What do I do?' He's Patrick Roy. I'm just nobody. I didn't throw any punches or anything. I just kind of took it and they broke it up. I was sent down (to the AHL Fredericton Canadiens) pretty soon after that."

Conroy was back for Roy's last stand.

While the players didn't have to take sides, management had to make a choice between the head coach and star player. It couldn't have been an easy call. In hindsight, Tremblay's decision to leave Roy in the net a little too long should have been much easier.

"Maybe they should have pulled him out," said Conroy with a shrug as he remembered the frustrated fans giving Roy the Bronx cheer.

"He kind of put his hands up to the fans when they cheered when he made a save.

"It was tough. Montreal was a tough place."

The cheers will be heartfelt tomorrow, though, and all will be forgotten.


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