The Montreal Canadiens welcomed back Patrick Roy with open arms on Thursday, announcing that his No. 33 will be raised to the rafters of the Bell Centre in a special pre-game ceremony on Nov. 22 when they host the Boston Bruins.
"It's a great day," said Roy at the Thursday media conference. "It was already an honour to be among the 44 Canadiens players in the Hall of Fame and now they've announced that my number will be retired and be with two legendary goaltenders, Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden."
The Hall of Fame goaltender led Montreal to Stanley Cups in 1986 and 1993 and is considered as one of the top goaltenders in NHL history, posting a record 551 wins in 19 seasons with the Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche.
"This is obviously a well-deserved honor for Patrick," said Avalanche president Pierre LaCroix in a release. "To have number 33 hang from the rafters in Montreal, a place where the game's greatest goaltender began his career, is truly special,"
The announcement officially welcomes the star netminder back to the Canadiens family. His career in Montreal ended abruptly in Dec. 1995, when he reacted with anger when left in goal by coach Mario Tremblay while being shelled by the Detroit Red Wings. He demanded a trade and was sent to Colorado, where he won a Cup with the Avalanche the following spring.
"My leaving was seen as abandoning the team but I also had a feeling I was being abandoned," explained Roy. "Yes, I'd have liked to leave on a different note but there's nothing we can do about it today.
"The message I'm trying to send is that it's time for me to move on and I hope it's time for them. I'm very happy to come back to the Canadiens family."
Canadiens legend and current general manager Bob Gainey thinks too much has been made of Roy's split from the team.
"I don't know so much about reconcile - he's not the only person who has had a problem with authority figures in his employment place," said Gainey to the Canadian Press.
"(Raising his number) includes Patrick in what we're trying to do with the 100th anniversary," explained Gainey to the Canadian Press. "Patrick had a tremendous impact late in those 100 years. You just can't turn away from his career as a player. He was terrific."
The Canadiens have been retiring numbers of their past greats each year leading up to their 100th anniversary in December 2009. Roy's jersey would be the 15th to be taken out of circulation, joining the numbers of Plante (1), Doug Harvey (2), Jean Beliveau (4), Bernard Geoffrion (5), Howie Morenz (7), Maurice Richard (9), Guy Lafleur (10), Yvan Cournoyer and Dickie Moore (12), Henri Richard (16), Serge Savard (18), Larry Robinson (19), Gainey (23) and Dryden (29).
Roy will also be the sixth player in NHL history to have his number retired by two different NHL teams, joining Wayne Gretzky (Oilers and Kings), Mark Messier (Oilers and Rangers), Ray Bourque (Avalanche and Bruins), Gordie Howe (Red Wings and Whalers) and Bobby Hull (Blackhawks and Jets).
Roy, who shares the same birthday as fellow Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux, was selected by the Canadiens in the third round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft.
The Quebec City native holds or shares six team records with the Canadiens, including most combined playoff and regular season games (665), most minutes played including playoffs (38,882), most games played in one season including playoffs (82 in 1992-93), fewest losses in one season (5 in 1988-89), longest home winning streak (14 from 12/12/1988 - 03/22/1989) and longest home undefeated streak (29 from 10/08/1988 - 04/01/1989).
"People don't realize how hard it is to be mentally ready for 82 games and the playoffs," said former teammate Kirk Muller to the Canadian Press. "Every time he came into the room he was focused on winning."
Roy also won most of his hardware with the Canadiens, with two Conn Smythe Trophies as playoff MVP, three Vezina Trophies and four Jennings Trophies.
In 12 seasons with Montreal, Roy compiled 289 career wins, 29 shoutouts and a 2.78 goals-against average. He also had a 70-42 record in the postseason with a 2.46 goals-against average.
Roy's No. 33 was also retired by the Avalanche in 2003.