On Dec. 2, 1995, star goaltender Patrick Roy was left in net for nine goals in an 11-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings and went toe-to-toe with head coach Mario Tremblay in an infamous moment in the 112-year history of the Montreal Canadiens.
After 26 years of not speaking to one another, the former Canadiens teammates and friends finally came together to collaborate with Uber Eats to launch the "Tonight, I’ll be eating" campaign, helping restaurants in Quebec as the province works its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
TSN’s John Lu had the opportunity to sit down with both Canadiens legends to talk about how the opportunity to reconcile came about.
John Lu: Patrick, Mario, would you guys have ever seen this day – sitting here together reconciled as friends?
Mario Tremblay: First of all, I’m so proud to be here with Patrick today. After 25 years, it’s nice to be back together again, I’m telling you right now.
Patrick Roy: It was fun when we received the call from Uber Eats. I was a bit surprised as well, but I was excited at the opportunity to renew with Mario and kind of put that behind us, you know? It was a great opportunity and I can’t thank Uber Eats enough for that opportunity, to have the chance to see Mario and talk with him.
During the winter, I was in Florida – we’re both in Quail Ridge – and I saw him after a game at the bar. I was hoping to sit down with him, have a drink with him and talk about the past and (I’m) kind of glad that the situation is happening right now.
JL: So you were thinking about reconciling your friendship?
JL: And this would have been during the pandemic. What led you to that place, to come to that decision? Even though the Uber Eats opportunity facilitated it – you were thinking about reconciling…
PR: First of all, I’ve been tired of talking about Dec. 2, 1995. I received zillions of calls to make some comments last year in December (the 25th anniversary of the game) and I refused every call…I didn’t want to talk about it. It was behind me and having the chance to sit down with Mario and just kind of put this behind us, to sleep. I know it will never be…but I mean, having the chance to put this to sleep, talking together, was the best thing that could happen to me. To answer your question, yes, it’s been a while. We have a lot of common friends in Florida who we play golf with and I knew it was just a matter of time before we had that opportunity. But thank God it happened through this situation. We had so much fun doing the commercial. We had a lot of laughs and memories that came back. It was a lot of fun.
JL: What was it like that moment when you first came together for this opportunity? Who spoke first? What did you say? What was that moment like?
MT: It went really well. When Patrick came in (in Quebec) he was happy, was in good humour, “Hi Mario!” People have a tendency to forget we were roommates together before I coached Patrick. So we had lots of good moments together, but for sure – people are talking about that game on Dec. 2, 1995. We had some good laughs when we played together – Pat was a rookie, I was a veteran on the team. We (the 1985-86 Canadiens) brought them up with us – the kids there – so we had lots of fun together too.
JL: Can you share some of the dynamic of the nine-year difference between you – veteran and rookie – in the ‘86 season?
MT: When we were roommates, we had a bottle of Aqua Velva. When I was on a hot streak, Patrick would give me a little shot of Aqua Velva on each side (of my face) and said, “Alright Mario, now you’re ready. Go score some goals!” We had some fun together!
PR: I think he was on a streak of about four to five games scoring goals. It was like, “We can’t stop! Let’s do it!” But It was bad luck because Mario got hurt in our preseason game in Sherbrooke. So he came back and started playing, and I think he got hurt again midway in the season. It was tough for our team, but he was good to me. As a rookie that year, he made me feel comfortable. I think for any young players – especially the rookies – you need kind of a mentor, someone who could show you the way. And Mario was a really good friend. We had a lot of laughs in our room. I remember we were in Buffalo and it was so cold in the hotel room. The phone rang for the wake-up call and we each were like this (arms crossed over his chest) and we kind of looked at each other thinking, “Which one of us is going to put the heat on in the room?”
MT: (laughing) The rookie!
JL: All those memories and experiences – is this, for the two of you, just a matter of picking up where you left off with that 25-year gap in between, to re-establish that friendship?
MT: I would say so. The thing is, during COVID-19, it was good for us to get back together. And I hope it’s going to help some members of families to get back together because we all know there’s lot of families that don’t talk to each other.
PR: There’s a message behind this. If we could touch people and help them to talk to family members or friends or sisters or brothers or mothers…we’re proving (to) the world that it’s possible after years to be back and be able to reconnect. The pandemic is hard for everybody. I think it’s important that people to reach out to people, touch people and help them to feel that it’s possible to reconnect.
JL: What have you experienced or lost through the pandemic that led you to this sense within you to reconcile?
MT: First of all, when we received the call from Uber Eats…both of us were very happy to connect and get back together. At a moment during the commercial (shoot), without talking for 20, 20-something years, we’re sitting right in front of each other and we’re looking at each other in the eyes. And I said to Pat, “It’s funny, we’re looking at each other now, eye to eye for two hours and we didn’t speak for 20 years!” But that’s the way it is. And it’s a good thing that it happened to the both of us.
PR: I just look at my mom. She’s confined at home, can’t see her friends and it’s hard for people. I use the expression, “She’s on her back nine,” and it’s hard for these people to think that they’re losing those years. But at the same time, if we could bring a bit of this in their lives and people could see us reconnecting, I hope that this could bring a bit of joy to them. COVID has been hard for everybody and it’s hard to get back. But if we could look forward, hopefully we’re all going to be in a good place after that.
JL: It’s hard to get back a lot of small businesses, in particular restaurants. The campaign that you gentlemen have undertaken is to help restaurants and by extension through the delivery service. What is it about this particular initiative that you felt strongly about?
MT: I do have the application for Uber Eats on my phone and my kids got it too. As you mentioned, it’s going to be very important to help the restaurants. They went through such a tough time during COVID-19. Now it’s time to help them, to call Uber Eats, make some reservations, order some food from our restaurants and I think that’s going to be good for everybody.
PR: It was easy for me. I’m with a group - co-owner of L’Hotel du Capitole in Quebec, and we have an Italian restaurant in Quebec. We never opened up because the pandemic happened just before we were thinking about opening. So I know exactly what hotels and restaurants are going through. It’s important to have Uber Eats helping them and helping all the restaurants. I think it’s a good thing.
MT: I owned a restaurant myself for 40 years in my hometown in Alma, Quebec. I can tell you that we went through some tough times also. The restaurant was closed, we lost a lot of money, but things are good now that we’re back in the orange zone and the restaurant reopened. But before that, it was tough. It was not easy for nobody.
JL: People talk so much about how hockey coming back this season was something for people to rally around and feel good about. But what we’re witnessing here with you two reconciling as friends – how important do you think that will be and how will that resonate with the Montreal Canadiens fan base, for the province of Quebec and hockey fans around the world?
PR: I think it will resonate really well. We don’t control how people think, but we know how we think and we are very happy about this situation.
MT: I think people will be happy to see the both of us together. There’s a time…(Patrick’s) a grandfather now, I’m a grandfather, it’s time to move on.
PR: Mario has won Stanley Cups for Montreal, I have won Stanley Cups in Montreal, so the past will always be a big part of the Montreal Canadiens. The history and the tradition that this franchise has…it was very important when I was a player there and I know that it is important for the fans. And I’m sure they’re very happy to see us together.
JL: The fans will never forget Dec. 2, 1995. I’m not going to rehash that date or that game, but when that anniversary comes up – because people always remember it – what will that date represent for you gentlemen moving forward?
PR: I hope people are going to say, “Wow, they reconnected. That’s cool,” instead of just focusing on what happened. There’s nothing more to say. I hope people are going to say, “You know what? It’s cool, they’re back together. They’re talking, they play golf together, they live in the same community in Florida.” And it won’t be a surprise for anybody to say, “Hey, you’re playing in a golf tournament? Mario is there…” You’re not going to the right, him to the left. It’s, “Hey, how are you? Good to see you.” I hope that’s what’s going to transpire for the people.
JL: Picking up your friendship again – you mentioned playing golf – are there going to be family dinners as well? Canadiens alumni events?
MT: For sure!
PR: Why not? The fact that we are in the same place in Florida, the fact that we’re both part of the Montreal Canadiens’ old timers, there’s certainly a lot of activities. And I’ll be more than happy now to see Mario in those activities.
This full interview was formatted and edited for readability and clarity.