During a December 1998 game in Anaheim, Patrick Roy was lifted from the game for a few minutes by first-year coach Bob Hartley. The Avs were on a power play and needed a goal to take the lead, but Hartley’s players were tired from an extended shift. So he decided to change goalies to get his team more of a breather, inserting Craig Billington in for Roy when the power play resumed.
The Avs scored, and it proved the game-winning goal. Billington, because he was in the net for the game-winner, got credit for the win despite never making a save. Roy made every save otherwise in the win. Everyone in a burgundy red sweater was happy coming off the ice at the Arrowhead Pond, except for one player: Patrick Roy.
Feeling he was slighted, used as a pawn by Hartley, Roy seethed after the game in an otherwise jubilant room. He decided to take a walk to the visiting coach’s office, where Hartley savored the win with assistants Bryan Trottier and Jacques Cloutier, and video coach Paul Fixter. With his goalie stick in hand, Roy confronted Hartley in heated French. Hartley suggested they talk about things in the morning, as there was a bus to catch out of the arena. Roy would have none of that. He then took his stick and smashed up a TV and a VCR. Roy felt Hartley should have just used his one remaining timeout to give his tired power-play unit a breather, instead of taking him out for Billington. Sure, the move worked, but Roy felt it was minor-league stuff.
The Avalanche kept the blowup under wraps for nearly two weeks, when I got tipped off to the whole thing. Even though it was by then an old story, my bosses at the paper and I felt it was still newsworthy. I called Roy, and he acknowledged the story was true. But then he got really upset with me after the story actually hit the paper. It just so happened Roy’s former team, Montreal, was in Denver the day the story was published. It was a pure coincidence, nothing more.
Believe me, we would have published it much sooner if we’d known. But Roy accused me of waiting until Montreal came to town to run the story, to make him look bad in front of all the traveling Canadiens writers who were sure to put their own spin on the story. Roy then took his accusations to a new level. Because I had a good relationship with Paul Theofanous, the agent for Avs players Sandis Ozolinsh, Valeri Kamensky, and Alexei Gusarov, Roy thought one of the three had to have leaked it to Theofanous, who must have then leaked it to me. None of them was my source, which remains known only to me and the other person.
When Theofanous’ clients told him they were being fingered by Roy, Theofanous got upset too. He just happened to be in town that day as well, and he insisted we clear the air right then and there after an Avs practice at McNichols Sports Arena. So for at least an hour, maybe more, Theofanous, Roy, Kamensky, and I sat in chairs all facing each other. I told Roy that none of the people he thought were the leakers had actually done so. He didn’t believe it, and we just went around and around and around on it for what seemed like forever.
By the end, though, Roy seemed to have calmed down and we finally departed on what seemed like good terms. I never took anything Patrick Roy said about me personally. It’s part of the job. Hey, I wouldn’t like a story like that about me in the paper either. But there was another aspect to my relationship with Theofanous that I did get very upset about. A rumor got around that the reason I had gotten a decent number of scoops from Theofanous was because I was paying him for them. Excuse me? First off, I was a print journalist. I didn’t have wads of cash for a secret slush fund. Second, I had a little more integrity than that.
I got really upset over that one, and I knew I had to nip it in the bud. So I then stormed into Pierre Lacroix’s office and essentially said I’d sue him and the rest of the organization for defamation and slander if they wanted to keep such a rumor going. Lacroix played dumb, saying it was only something he’d “heard” but didn’t believe. OK, I said, but I was red-hot over it for a while.
Years later, we just laugh about it. Roy and Hartley laugh about the incident anytime they see each other, and the same with Lacroix and me. It’s sports; it was never that serious.