One of the greatest goaltenders of all time nearly became a swimmer. Only, he couldn't stand freezing water.
So, Patrick Roy took up skating instead, elevating teams along the way with his cool play in net and his fiery attitude. The four-time Stanley Cup winner detested losing as a player.
Still does. But as coach of the Colorado Avalanche, he's trying to master the art of emotional balance, when to use his spirited voice — not to mention his menacing stare — and when to back off.
A more peaceful Patrick has the Avalanche in playoff contention during his third season behind the bench.
"There are times when we'll hear it from him like we should," defenseman Erik Johnson said. "But he's not per se a yeller and a screamer like people might think. He's very fair and real easy to work with, giving players input and working as a partnership with us rather than a hierarchy-type deal."
Of course, Roy still has eruptions. But he has worked to keep his outbursts in check since Day 2. Day 1 wasn't exactly a shining example, when he pounded on the glass partition in fury during his first regular-season game as coach. In a lopsided win over Anaheim, no less. But that's proven to be more of an emotional outlier than the norm.
Roy's style has evolved to this: Backing his players, even after dreadful losses, and keeping an even keel. That took nearly a decade to sink in as he learned how to maintain his cool while coaching the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He realized that yelling didn't lead to goals and that screaming only caused players to tune out.
"I love to win as much as I did as a player," said the 50-year-old Roy, whose team tied a franchise record for wins in 2013-14 when he was coach of the year and missed the playoffs a year ago. "But as a coach, you're learning to control your emotions because if you don't control it, it's going to have a negative effect on the players."
When Roy gets home after games, he scrutinizes every decision he made, from lineup combinations to power-play opportunities.
"Sometimes, you just realize that it's a team game and it's in the hands of the players and the best thing you could do is support them," Roy said. "I just try to be the best I can."
His father, Michel, has certainly seen a transformation. They had dinner after a recent loss and his son was remarkably calm.
"He told me, 'I have to learn how to realize I'm just the coach. I can't score or block shots for them,'" his father recounted. "As a player, he could, at times, over-perform and go beyond his limits. ... All he can do now is make sure they give all they have."
Michel Roy was in town promoting his book that was re-released through a U.S. publisher. The subject? His son, naturally. There are number of intriguing revelations in "Patrick Roy: Winning. Nothing Else," which gained the stamp of approval from the legendary goaltender:
— Roy's last name could've been Arsenault. His father only found out later in life his biological dad was Arsenault, not Roy.
— Before the 1984 draft, the family went to brunch and dropped a coin into a machine that forecast lucky numbers for the day. His was 51, which happened to be the overall spot where Montreal selected him.
— Roy was a talented tennis player and swimmer, one of the best breaststrokers in the province for his age. But he detested how cold it was at the pool.
He certainly doesn't mind a frigid ice rink, though. He had 551 career wins as a goaltender and a league-record 151 victories in the playoffs.
"When Patrick was six or seven or eight, he was a frail kid and very skinny, not very strong. By looking at him, you'd never guess he would become a pro athlete," his father recounted. "It is basically because of his passion for winning, passion for the game, determination, that he achieved what he has achieved."
Same goes with Roy the coach.
"He's brought an attitude here, what it's going to take to win, how we were going to have to play to win games," said Avalanche forward Alex Tanguay, who was teammates with Roy on the 2001 Stanley Cup squad. "His will to win has always been what sets him apart."