A guest writer delves into the ‘Patrick Roy’s sweater being retired’ saga.
Take it away, Jim.
“Pro sports are sexy for a variety of reasons, but perhaps their most attractive quality is that they are so readily apprehended. Things are pretty straightforward, excluding the usual geeky obsession with stats – God bless The Schwab, a brilliant trivia geek, but frankly I have to agree with Noam Chomsky here when he says in effect that the brains of such people could be put to much better use.
A simple concept that I’m interested in touching on here is that of the relationship between team and player and championships. In all team sports, WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS is the ultimate goal, the ultimate measure not only of the team but of the individual player. Aguably, winning the Stanley Cup is the most demanding, most arduous, most difficult championship to capture, and being a member of a Stanley Cup championship team is the crown glory of any player. This simple fact is born out by the players themselves who to a man agree that they would trade any number of individual achievements, any amount of accolades just to win one cup – to my knowledge, no player has yet declared they preferred being a star to winning a cup.
In this respect, Lanny McDonald and Dave Andreychuk spring immediately to mind.
Are individual stats relevant?
Of course they are. For example, Marcel Dionne and Mike Gartner were great players and derserved to be in the Hall of Fame even though they did not win any cups. Conversely, many players such as Mario Tremblay and Rejean Houle, who won several cups with the Habs, do not, in my mind, belong in the Hall.
In other words, membership in the Hall is very much a function of individual accomplishments in the game, although inductees who have won cups are, I believe, a cut above those who did not – the single most significant yardstick for measuring the greatness of a player is how many cups he has won. Period.
However, being inducted into the Hall is not the same as having one’s sweater retired by le Canadien. The Habs are not only the greatest team of all time, they are one of the greatest sports teams of all time. What this means is quite simply that the standards and expectations that apply to other teams and their players are not applicable to the Habs.
My point re Roy? Winning a mere two cups hardly qualifies Patrick Roy to be placed in the company of greats such as Beliveau, the Richards, Cournoyer, Plante, Lafleur, – who each has great stats as well as multiple cups. Note that they are all Hall Of Famers, unlike Houle and Tremblay. And the argument that Roy single-handedly won the two cups and therefore merits special treatment not only flies in the face of the win-as-a-team/lose-as-a-team maxim but it is insulting to the great players on those cup teams – look ‘em up!
It’s a cliche, which doesn’t mean it isn’t so, to say that teams only go as deep into the playoffs as their goalies take them. Of course goalies are crucial components on any cup-winning team, but this sure doesn’t lead to the conclusion that all cup-winning goalies should have their sweaters retired. But if we assume that Roy did literally win the cup by himself, then, applying the same logic, it’s reasonable to to assume that he therefore lost many more cups than he won. Hey, isn’t Price getting heat for ‘losing’ to the Flyers? Never mind the goalposts and poor shooting of the rest of the team. Hmmm, makes Roy a big choker rather than a big hero, n’est-ce pas?
Put him in the Hall, sure. Roy was a good goalie and he did have an impact on the game. But he definitely did NOT accomplish enough as a Canadien to warrant having his sweater retired. It’s a cynical marketing play that diverts attention from the fact that we have not won a cup in 15 years! And please, spare me the bs about the modern game and parity. The Wings have won 3 in 11 years and could easily have won more and we’re supposed to be happy to make the playoffs. What a shameful betrayal of all the great Hab players and builders who triumphed regardless of the era in which they played. Hell, mug shots of Sammy Pollock and Scotty Bowman belong up there, not Roy’s sweater.
In Habland, cups first and persoanl stats a distant second – gotta luv Gainey and Harvey and Robinson and Savard, eh? And yes, the criteria that qualify a player of Hall of Fame induction do apply. As well, intangible considerations other than cup wins are also relevant.: leadership (suck it up, dig down, and play even better), charisma (Morenz, Richard, Beliveau, Lafleur), grit and determination (not a quitter among the sweaters up there now), loyalty (Roy? hmm..), et al.
Re Morenz, okay, I’ll be arbitrary here and say 3 cups is the minimum necessary to qualify to even be considered for having one’s sweater retired. I’ll also point out that Morenz, aka the Statford Streak, was called the Babe Ruth of hockey and as such he transcended the sport in much the same way Ruth did baseball, something that Patrick can not lay claim to. Morenz was a star whose brilliance far exceeded that of Roy. Also, unlike Roy, Morenz did not quit the Habs in the throes of a hissy fit over a chilish spat with a patently hostile and incompetent coach who would have clearly been turfed in favour of Roy. Morenz was a true Hab who died well before his time from an injury sustained while wearing the bleu, blanc, et rouge.
PS No player will ever publicy say that other players do not deserve whatever honours team and league choose to bestow on them.