Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Ode to Olivier

You know when you have that one favourite player, the one that would make you sick to your stomach to see in another team’s colours? I remember when Alex Steen was traded to St. Louis – I loved the guy, hated to see him go. I feel like it’ll be a looooong season for many Cape Breton Screaming Eagles fans in that regard.

One of the things that always screws me up about the QMJHL is some of the trades. You have to pay attention to every single deal or you can get lost. Olivier Roy, probably the best goalie in the league, was essentially traded by Cape Breton to Lewiston for a pair of 2nd round picks, which makes zero sense on its own, especially when he was flipped to Bathurst the next day for a huge package including the 1st overall pick in the June draft. Given the nature of junior hockey, these things happen – Roy was essentially future considerations, so the Eagles could take a run with him and Jacob Lagace, who came over mid-season, and then unload Roy after that run (which scored them one post-season win against the eventual champs) back to Lewiston.

Olivier Roy was, to put it lightly, a sick monster for the Eagles for three seasons. He came in as a 16-year old, ran the train on the league and won rookie of the year, and was named to the CHL’s all-rookie team. He was an instant fan favourite, something that is easy to see now that he’s gone. He put together some incredible performances. His numbers may not support the beastly status I’m giving him, but he had the ability to take over a game and steal it. He had to on many occasions – the Eagles weren’t exactly a stacked team in his time there. Good players, yes, but they won games with a hard-nosed, hard-working mindset rather than one of finesse. They’ve always been the type of team that you cheer for, because they have heart and play a complete game, and their goaltender was the root of that.

Roy put another notch in his belt, another in his list of accomplishments in this league, on Sunday. After earning 94 wins in his three seasons with the Eagles, he recorded win number one hundred at “home”… against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. He’s only the sixth goalie in league history to do so. By the end of the season, he’ll have the all-time shutout record, and 2nd place on the wins list, both accomplished, as win 100 was, wearing Titan colours. But in the eyes of Eagles fans, Roy’s junior home will always be Cape Breton, where he’ll soon become another name rattled off when talking about Cape Breton as a goalie factory, along with Marc-Andre Fleury and Ondrej Pavelec. Why he slipped to the Oilers in round five of the draft, I don’t know. I’m no talent scout, and certainly not for goalies, but this kid has something special, and it won’t be long before that becomes widely apparent.

He’s going to start for Canada at the World Juniors in Buffalo this year; a year too late, in my opinion, and in hindsight I’m sure many will agree. And even after that remarkable achievement against their own boys, and even after his return home on November 28th with his new teammates, the most heart wrenching time for Eagles fans may just begin on Boxing Day. It’s reminiscent of the story of another Roy; Halladay. When Olivier Roy pulls off an incredible post-to-post display of acrobatics, the announcers will remind us that he’s representing the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. If the team is good enough (because we sure as hell know he is) to return Canada to its golden glory in Buffalo, he won’t be accepting his medal as a member of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. And you’d best believe that’s going to sting.

I’m guilty of not seeing enough of Olivier Roy in the flesh during his time with the Eagles. I got to a few games, sure, and I certainly admired his work from a distance, but when he and the Titan roll into the Centre 200 on November 28th, I’ll be there, showing my appreciation for a lifetime Eagle, regardless of whatever achievements lay on the horizon with other teams.

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