Roy has Remparts fighting for QMJHL championship in final season
The Quebec Remparts are trying to send Patrick Roy out on a high note in his final season behind the bench of the junior club he co-owns.
The Hall of Fame Stanley Cup-winning goalie for the Colorado Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens announced at the start of the season that this would be his last as head coach of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) team he joined in 2005. Roy has coached all but five seasons for the Remparts since then, including a stretch where he spent three years as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche.
Roy, who also serves as GM of the Remparts, brought former NHL winger Simon Gagne into the organization last July to apprentice under him and become the head coach for 2023-24.
The Remparts went on to a 53-win, first-place season and have won all 12 of their playoff games, three shy of the QMJHL record for consecutive wins in a postseason. The club also set the league record for most fans at a playoff game, packing 17,911 spectators into the Videotron Centre on April 30 for a game versus the Gatineau Olympiques.
That record will be broken this weekend. The Ramparts’ first two home games of the QMJHL final versus the Halifax Mooseheads are already sold out (18,259) as Roy looks for his first league title as a head coach.
“They’ve been very resilient,” Roy said of his team on Wednesday. “That’s what I appreciate. Even if we go down by a goal or are up by a goal, if we win a big game, they’re very good to be even-keel and come back to the next practice with a fresh mind and ready to perform.”
Roy attributed a lot of the team’s success this season to how it practises.
“Mentally, we want to make sure we stay focused on what we need to do,” Roy said. “The best way to do it is to have good practices. I always believed that you play like you practice. We want to make sure that every time we jump on the ice, we do those small details really well.”
Remparts winger James Malatesta, who has 14 points in 12 playoff games, believes his team is peaking at the right time.
“Each round, we’ve been getting better and better and more confident,” he said. “It helps when everyone’s playing well and contributing to the team.”
Remparts goalie Will Rousseau has also raised his game this spring, earning all 12 postseason victories and sporting a .929 save percentage while allowing fewer than two goals per game.
“We’re playing with confidence and consistency,” Rousseau said, adding that the team’s leadership has been key.
It doesn’t hurt to have a mentor like Roy, but the coach’s involvement is more on the mental side of the game. Roy leaves the technical side of the game to Remparts goalie coach Pascal Lizotte.
“When he knew I was in a bit of a dark [stretch] of the year and it wasn’t going too well, he would call me into his office and chit-chat,” Rousseau said. “He talked about his past and memories of the game.”
If Roy notices something technical, he talks with Lizotte instead of going directly to his goalies. He only wants to impart the emotional lessons he learned from playing the position at the highest level.
“My meetings with Will are more [about] what happened to me when I gave up a goal,’” Roy said. “…It’s more mental things than structure or technical things. Everybody tried to make my career look like a Cinderella [story], but it’s not always like this. I had some downs as well. It was important for me to share how I felt in those moments.”
The Remparts have also gotten a boost from a teammate who has overcome the odds to make an impact in the playoffs.
Last season, forward Mikael Huchette dealt with severe pain in both of his wrists. Tests showed that the ulna bones in both his arms were 0.5 millimetres too long, a rare condition he had since birth. Huchette went for corrective surgery to cut the bones early this season, missing most of the campaign before returning for the playoffs. He has eight points in 12 games and feels healthy.
“It was the first time for me to not be playing my favourite sport,” Huchette said. “My mom had to help me eat because I could not move either wrist. It was really hard to find motivation…it was a tough time.”
Roy applauded Huchette for his resiliency.
“Impressive,” Roy said. “He’s been working really hard to come back. To see the effort, commitment, sacrifice – you see him performing the way he’s been performing, as a coach or even as a human being, you’re amazed by that.”
Roy knows there is once again speculation surrounding his future after the season ends.
There are currently head coaching vacancies with the Calgary Flames, New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim Ducks, and Washington Capitals.
Would he entertain another opportunity in the National Hockey League?
“If I receive calls, I will listen,” he replied. “You know like me, rumours are rumours…I’d rather focus on what I can control, and what I can control is how we prepare our team for Friday night against Halifax.”