Canadiens mull over honouring Roy

SCOTT MORRISON

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

It is an interesting debate that is unfolding in La Belle Province these days.

No, not the time-waster over taking fighting out of junior hockey, a discussion that was reborn after the nonsense in Chicoutimi last weekend involving Patrick Roy and son Jonathan, a debate that has less to do with the good of the game and more about politicians stealing headlines and face time.

It is the other debate involving Patrick Roy that is only beginning to gather steam.

While the Montreal Canadiens haven't said anything publicly, there is a belief they are looking to honour another player next season -- their centennial anniversary -- and retire the number to the rafters.

The belief is that player is Patrick Roy and his number, 33, though nothing has been confirmed.

On the heels of the brawl last weekend, in which the elder Roy was accused (he denied it) of sending his son down the ice to pummel the opposition goaltender, some in the Quebec media are suggesting that perhaps Roy is not worthy of the honour, or that the Canadiens might want to avoid a possible controversy during a season of celebration.

Esteemed hockey writer Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette does not believe the Canadiens should honour Roy, citing a variety of reasons, including his messy departure from the team in 1995 and a few other off-ice incidents over the years.

"I have no way of knowing if the Canadiens already have decided to retire Roy's number," Fisher wrote the other day. "If they have, time is on their side and what they must do is revisit the decision. If they have, Canadiens owner George N. Gillett Jr. and team president Pierre Boivin should know it's a bad decision -- and has been from the start. If they have, what they must do is look long and hard at it and then decide whether retiring his No. 33 is good for the game and for the organization. It is not."

Fisher said that with Roy's two Stanley Cup wins in Montreal there: "Were on-ice moments to cherish, but there have also been off-ice issues that people can't forget or forgive. Ugly moments. Controversial moments. Disgusting moments such as Saturday's brawl ..."

Regarding Roy's departure from Montreal, the unforgettable incident on the bench that December night in 1995, Fisher said: "It was unprofessional and a gross disrespect for the sweater he wore."

If not next year, then at some point in the future the Canadiens will have decide whether Roy's number belongs in the rafters. Two Stanley Cup wins, in 1986 and 1993, two Conn Smythe Trophies, three Vezina Trophies and 289 of his record 551 wins all happened while he was wearing a Canadiens uniform. All of that makes him rafter worthy.

The question being debated, though, is whether the off-ice baggage and the messy conclusion to his time in Montreal overrides all of that. At least one Canadiens historian obviously believes so, though not all will agree.

Some would suggest that the honour would be for Roy's playing career, his 10-plus seasons in Montreal, not what happened or was alleged to have happened away from the rink, or after his days in Montreal, or even after his retirement.

And that even though the departure from the organization was anything but clean, the team had a role in messing it, that time is supposed to heal all wounds and that it's all really about the accomplishments. Beyond that, there are others honoured in those rafters in Montreal, who have had issues themselves.

This much we do know, seldom do the Canadiens err in these sorts of matters.

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