A small gesture, to be sure, but one as debilitating under the circumstances as the most thunderous bodycheck. Montreal Canadien goaltender Patrick Roy merely looked at his opponent and winked.
What had he been thinking? Deep into overtime in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals on June 7, with the Los Angeles King forwards literally knocking at his goalmouth, Roy stoned Luc Robitaille and froze the puck. Then, impishly, he glanced at the Kings' Tomas Sandstrom and flicked his left eyelash, like some kid in a street hockey game. This amused, un-harried wink was surely one of the most memorable in hockey history. What did this outrageous gesture mean?
That Roy was cocky? That he was loose? That the puck looked as big to him as a manhole cover? That the snakebitten Kings, who had already suffered two straight backbreaking overtime losses to the Canadiens and were about to suffer their third, could play till Sunset Boulevard froze over and never poke the puck past Roy in OT?
Last Friday, while riding in the backseat of a white stretch limousine in Montreal, under police escort to a Canadien victory parade that was not about to begin without him, Roy pondered that question. He could not recall ever before having winked at an opponent. Certainly not in overtime of the Stanley Cup finals. "Always Sandstrom is in my crease, bothering me, hitting at me when I have the puck," Roy (pronounced WAH) said. "When I made the save on Robitaille, Sandstrom hit me. So I winked. I wanted to show him I'd be tough. That I was in control."
In control? Is that what you call Roy's remarkable 10 straight overtime wins in the 1993 playoffs, a record the Canadiens set during their run to their 24th Stanley Cup? How about invincible? Impenetrable? Or, as one fan's banner in the Montreal Forum had it, INC-ROY-HAB-LE?
After the Canadiens opened the playoffs with a loss—in OT to the Quebec Nordiques in a game in which Roy was later criticized for having let in a soft goal in the final minute to force the extra session—Roy simply closed the door when games were on the line. For the remainder of the postseason, Montreal went 12-0 in one-goal games. In the 10 overtime wins, Roy played 96 minutes and 39 seconds of sudden-death hockey without yielding a goal, the equivalent of more than a game and a half. During those extra sessions he kicked out 65 shots.
With a 16-4 record and a 2.13 goals-against average in the playoffs, Roy atoned for what had been, for him, a mediocre regular season under first-year coach Jacques Demers, who had introduced Montreal to a more wide-open style than the Canadiens had played in recent years. "The one thing as a coach I'll take credit for," said Demers after the playoffs, "is I stood with Patrick. I was not going to let him get down on himself after he gave up a soft goal against Quebec. He was just outstanding, sensational."
It wasn't the first time that Roy had put rings on the fingers of his Montreal teammates. In 1985-86, his rookie season, he had also led the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup, and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. But this Cup is sweeter to him than his first one was for a number of good reasons—none of which was better than the six-pound, nine-ounce daughter that Roy helped his wife, Michele, deliver on the morning after Game 1 of the finals in Montreal.
Sudden death. Sudden life. No question, the 27-year-old Roy had a busy playoffs. Montreal, as it happened, lost Game 1 to Los Angeles without putting up much of a fight. Afterward, Roy suggested that the Canadiens had had entirely too much time to digest the complimentary articles that were written about them during their seven-day layoff following the Wales Conference finals. "When everybody's telling you how great you're doing, you start to believe it," he said.
Later he drove Michele to Lakeshore Hospital. They arrived at midnight. Roy wanted to be there for his child's birth—he and Michele already had two sons, Jonathan, 4, and Frederick, 2—and Michele had wanted Patrick to coach her through the delivery. And funny thing about childbirth: You never know when the doggone little darlings will arrive. So, fearing the baby would choose to make her entrance at the worst possible time, when the team was in Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4, the Roys asked Michele's doctor to induce labor, and he agreed. Patrick got a couple of hours' sleep at the hospital. At 4 a.m. Michele went into labor. At 6 a.m. the big contractions kicked in. On June 2, at 7:50 a.m., Jana Roy was born. "Michele pushed only three times," Roy says. "The baby came right out."