PAT GRAHAM,AP Sports Writer
DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Avalanche are rounding up the old crew to restore the downtrodden franchise.
First, Joe Sakic was given more responsibility in the front office.
And now Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy is rejoining the Avs as head coach.
Colorado reached an agreement in principle Thursday with Roy to lead the team and also serve as vice president of hockey operations.
Roy will join forces with Sakic, who was recently promoted to executive vice president of hockey operations. The Avalanche won two Stanley Cup titles with the duo on the ice and the organization is hoping they can help turn around a struggling franchise.
Pull this off and it just might be Roy’s biggest save yet.
The Avs finished a year they’d rather forget, winding up last in the Western Conference and sitting out of the playoffs for a third straight season. The dismal season led to the dismissal of coach Joe Sacco late last month.
However, the team does have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft.
They also have one of the winningest goalies of all time, a fiery competitor during his playing days who will bring that sort of intensity to the bench.
The 47-year-old Roy becomes the sixth coach in Avalanche history and the 14th in franchise history; the team began as the Quebec Nordiques and moved to Denver before the 1995-96 season. The Avs captured the first of two Stanley Cup titles that season, with Roy in net.
Although he has no NHL coaching experience, Roy did spend the last eight seasons as coach and general manager of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, winning the 2006 Memorial Cup. He also is a part-owner of the QMJHL franchise.
“This is an unbelievable day for me,” Roy said. “It’s a new and exciting challenge that I am really looking forward to. Almost 10 years to the day that I announced my retirement as a player I am back in Denver and hope the fans are as excited as I am.”
Roy’s younger brother, Stephane Roy, let the secret out of the bag earlier this week, posting a Facebook note saying his brother would be the new coach. That left fans in the Mile High City eager all week, hoping two of the most beloved players in team history would team up again.
“This is a very exciting day for our fans and a significant moment in our organization’s history,” team president Josh Kroenke said.
Following the season, the Avalanche shook up their front office, naming Kroenke as their team president as he took over for longtime executive Pierre Lacroix, who was instrumental in assembling the squads that won championships in 1996 and 2001.
Kroenke’s first task was giving Sakic more of a say in every day hockey decisions. He also allowed Sakic to seek out the next coach.
Naturally, he turned to someone he knows quite well.
“All along Patrick was our top candidate and we are thrilled that he has decided to accept this offer,” Sakic said. “Patrick has a great hockey mind, is a tremendous coach and there is no one more passionate about this game. He will bring that winning attitude to our dressing room to help this young team grow.”
Roy was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006. He retired with the most regular-season wins in NHL history (551), since passed by New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur. Roy also won two Stanley Cups with Montreal and remains the winningest goalie in Stanley Cup history with 151 postseason victories.
“Patrick’s passion for the game of hockey both as a player and as a coach defines who he is as a person,” Kroenke said. “He is a winner and is coming back to Denver, where he created numerous special moments on and off the ice while helping lead us to two Stanley Cup championships.”
Roy won three Vezina Trophies (1989, 1990, 1992) and was selected to the NHL All-Star team six times.
The excitable Roy started his career with Montreal, winning two Stanley Cup trophies for the Canadiens. But a rift grew with the team after a game against Detroit on Dec. 2, 1995, when Roy allowed nine goals before he was finally taken out in the second period. Upset, Roy told Montreal it was his last game for the team.
A few days later, he was in Colorado, helping the Avs win their first Stanley Cup title.
To this day, Roy sweaters permeate the Pepsi Center on game days. He’s that revered.
Roy had his number retired by the Avs a decade ago and a banner to commemorate the achievement now hangs from the arena’s rafters, alongside those of Peter Forsberg (21), Ray Bourque (77) and his new partner in turning around this franchise, Sakic (19).
The team has quite a big to build around, too, especially since the Avs have a young nucleus in place with Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and captain Gabriel Landeskog all under 23.
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