Perron was Roy's first NHL coach, way back when was a skinny youngster still wearing a plain-white mask. The two NHL newcomers, along with fellow rookie Claude Lemieux, led the Montreal Canadiens to an unexpected Stanley Cup championship in 1986.
Perron recalls a prickly three goalie rotation that first year. Perron had always favored Roy over Steve Penney or veteran backup Doug Soetart. The year before circumstances forced Perron to play pro-rookie Roy in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs. Roy surprised all and led the Sherbrooke Canadiens to the championship.
Despite this track record, politics prevent Perron from running with Roy once they both arrived in the NHL. Penney had a Patrick Roy-like beginning to his career, though he stumbled in the previous spring's playoff match against provincial rivals Quebec Nordiques, and there was much pressure to return him to his status as top dog. With waiver wire implications it was easiest to return Roy to the minor leagues for more seasoning, plus Habs management did not want to lose a mentoring veteran like Soetart.
Perron stuck to his guns and insisted on starting Roy a and got some reassurance from a veteran Montreal legend.
Montreal was several seasons removed from the dynasty years of the late 1970s, but there were still a couple holdovers, Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey, in the dressing room from the glory days.By playoff time Penney had come up with an injury, allowing Perron to dress Roy for all the playoffs with the cagey Soetart backing up on the bench. The rest is history, of course. Montreal went on to win the Stanley Cup, and the legend of St. Patrick was born.
Veterans, especially those with a fist full of Stanley Cup rings, can be slow to embrace a new presence in the room. But by the holiday season, Robinson had seen enough of Roy to know the Canadiens had a gift in goal, and so he knocked on Perron's office door.
"He said, 'Coach, you have the right to put that kid in nets, because he is so good that even in practice I can't score on the guy,' " Perron says.
"And when Larry Robinson, a future Hall of Famer, tells you this, as a coach you get some confidence."
Perron says his best hockey came in the finals against Calgary.
"He was a skinny kid, and he was moving like crazy," Perron says. "Patrick did miracle saves on Al MacInnis, Joey Mullen, Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Suter, Joel Otto, Lanny McDonald and Hakan Loob. He was just unbelievable.By the way, Eyes on the Prize also has a nice piece on general manager/Habs legend Bob Gainey. In honour of the recent passings of his wife and his daughter, Gainey has created the Gainey Foundation.