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How Mike Vernon set the stage for Patrick Roy's trade from Montreal

December 2, 1995 is a day that lives in infamy for the Montreal Canadiens, but it's a little known fact that the stage for Patrick Roy's trade that day.

A furious Patrick Roy sits on the bench after pulling himself
A furious Patrick Roy sits on the bench after pulling himself
Bruce Bennett

Everyone knows the story of Patrick Roy's final game for the Montreal Canadiens. It was an off night for the fiery goaltender, and for his team in front of him. There was already tension between Patrick Roy and new head coach Mario Tremblay, who didn't get along with each other when Tremblay was a player either.

Against the Detroit Red Wings that night, Roy was left in net for nine goals, drawing Bronx cheers from the Forum crowd on every easy save he made. Eventually Roy snapped, skated to the bench and pushed past Tremblay to then-team president Ronald Corey, telling him he had played his last game for the Canadiens. Detroit went on to win the game 11-1.

Four days later, the worst trade in Canadiens history was completed, sending perhaps the greatest goaltender of all time to the Colorado Avalanche along with team captain Mike Keane. Martin Rucinsky, Andrei Kovalenko and Jocelyn Thibault came back to Montreal.

The part most of us don't know? Before the game, Roy and Red Wings goaltender Mike Vernon bumped into each other by chance at a restaurant. According to Vernon himself in an interview with Hockey Night In Canada Radio, Roy opened up to him about how the pressure from the media and fans in Montreal had begun to bother him.

Mike Vernon: I recall even having a conversation with Patrick Roy, in Montreal, at the little breakfast place there, the spot we always used to go to. And uh, I just walked in by myself and I was early to the rink or something like that, and he was there like "Mike, come here, I want to talk to you." He goes, "The pressure, the media, the fans..." he was just... I knew he was thoroughly upset about all of this, and it was really bothering him. And I said, Patrick, you just have to get traded. I said I got traded, I'm enjoying it in Detroit and everything else, and lo and behold that game was the game where he went up to the president.

Host Kelly Hrudey: Oh no way! Wow!

Vernon: I mean, he was in for all nine goals, and he walked up to the president (of the Canadiens), and I'm like "Oh no". So the game's over, and I beeline it to the dressing room, and all the boys are going "What's wrong?" and I say "I'll talk to you later, I've gotta go," and no one could figure out why I was running in the dressing room, undressing, showered, and I was gone.


Patrick was thoroughly upset. Like, he was very upset. He talked about retirement. He talked about "I'm quitting". And I said "Patrick, you're too good, you can't quit. No no no, you can't do that, you're part of the NHL, you cannot do this. You're one of our number one goalies in the league." And you can't have a guy like that quitting, it would be like a guy like Gretzky saying "I'm done" part way through his career.

You can listen to the entire interview here. The part about the trade request comes about eight minutes into the clip.

It was likely just a matter of time before Roy asked to get out of Montreal anyway, based on Vernon's recollection of his mental state at the time. But Vernon put the idea in his head that night, and he was so terrified of meeting with the media after the game as a result. He bolted out of the arena immediately after the Red Wings' win.

The two men would meet many times over the next several seasons amidst one of the most heated rivalries the NHL has ever seen. The hatred between those late 90s Red Wings and Avalanche clubs perhaps reached its climax in March 1997 when the two teams brawled at Joe Louis Arena, and Roy and Vernon went head-to-head in what might be the most famous goalie fight in league history.

That's the most well-known piece of their history together; now we have another.