There is an endless supply of grand quotes from hockey man Glen Sonmor. Among the favorites was his observation on Jacques Demers, a well-traveled and hard-nosed coach:
“Demers has a four-year contract and a two-year act.”
One of Demers’ most-famous stunts was to throw pennies on the ice to get a stoppage for the St. Louis Blues during a 1986 playoff game vs. the North Stars.
Sonmor’s quote is recalled when noticing a firebrand behind an NHL bench. And it came to mind on Oct. 2, 2013, when Patrick Roy was coaching his first official game in Colorado’s season opener in Denver.
Suddenly, there was Roy pounding on the glass between the benches, issuing threats toward Bruce Boudreau, the grandfatherly looking coach of the Anaheim Ducks. The league wound up fining him $10,000 after Game 1 as an NHL coach.
My thought on the glass-pounding from the distance of the Twin Cities was: “This might be a two-month act for Roy.”
It was quite a shock to see Roy lead the Avalanche, supposedly a rebuilding team, to a 52-22-8 record and to first place in the Central Division. He was voted as the NHL’s Coach of the Year.
The downside was the Avs blew 2-0 and 3-2 leads vs. the Wild in the first-round playoff series and lost in seven games. That dive continued in Roy’s second season, as the Avs fell behind quickly in the Western Conference playoff race, and found themselves as no match for the Wild.
The fourth meeting of the season took place on Feb. 28 in Denver. It was an absolute must-have game for the Avs, and yet all they got out of it was their first goal of the season vs. Minnesota.
Cody McLeod was penalized and fined for taking a run at Mikael Granlund, and Gabriel Landeskog was fined for throwing a punch around the side of the glass on the bench toward Mikko Koivu.
This unkindness toward Finnish lads all stemmed from Sean Bergenheim, by coincidence the Wild’s newest Finn, having taken a shot at Colorado’s Nate MacKinnon. At least, that was the view of the Avs and of Roy, who ramped up Sunday’s pregame tension by bad-mouthing what he had read in that noble publication, the Star Tribune.
According to Roy, it might as well have been the National Review writing about Nancy Pelosi … the manner in which McLeod was framed in the Strib’s advance piece on Sunday’s drama.
These are desperate times, and Roy was looking for any possible slight to energize his team on this second night of a back-to-back, against the hottest team in hockey.
Somehow, he got it.
There were McLeod and Wild newcomer Chris Stewart engaging in fisticuffs 43 seconds into the game, as expected, and 17 minutes later, there was McLeod tipping in a puck to give the Avs a 1-0 lead, as not expected.
Semyon Varlamov’s goaltending made that lead stand, and then Zach Redmond’s blast from out front made it 2-0 late in the second, and Landeskog (yes, the other Avs guy to get fined) scored on a power play early in the third.
The Wild came with a flurry late, but Colorado left with a 3-2 victory. That felt very sweet for a team that had been outscored 12-1 in four prior losses to St. Paul’s finest.
“I’d like to give credit to the entire team, especially Cody McLeod,” Roy said. “Like I said before the game, it was sad to read those article[s], but at the same time, he stepped up. … It was nice for him to score the first goal of the game.”
McLeod is a 30-year-old and the senior Avalanche in time with the team. He comes from Binscarth, Manitoba, a hamlet of 425 people. In another uniform, you could root for a guy from Binscarth, but he’s with Colorado and these two teams have something going.
“I’d say this is our main rival right now and stuff happened last game, but we came out to battle,” McLeod said.
How about the early fight with Stewart? “I played with him for three or four years. … He’s a good buddy of mine,” McLeod said. “He was doing his job, and I was doing mine.
“That’s way she goes in hockey.”
Yes, she does.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org