Roy, MacKinnon Eager for Opener

Avalanche head coach, first round pick on opposite ends of Opening Night spectrum

Tuesday, 10.01.2013 / 8:27 PM
Scott Ward

Patrick Roy has been part of an Opening Night, or two. He played in parts of 19 NHL seasons and is considered one of the greatest goalies in hockey’s history—if not the greatest.

But he’s genuinely excited about Wednesday night’s Avalanche season opener against Anaheim (7:30 p.m. MT).

Nathan MacKinnon has been a part of zero NHL Opening Nights. Yes, he just completed an impressive junior career, and he makes you forget when talking to him that he’s just 18 years old.

But he’s excited for tomorrow night, too.

Roy and MacKinnon fall on both sides of the Opening Night spectrum—Roy’s a veteran at this sort of thing; MacKinnon has no idea what to expect—but each will wake up Wednesday like a child on Christmas.

“It’s going to be cool,” MacKinnon said. “I don’t really know how I’m going to feel yet. Obviously there are going to be butterflies.”

Added Roy: “I’m excited about the game, to be honest with you. It’s the first game … this is the date I would say that I put a circle around, and [that] I was looking forward to. The guys have played really well during the preseason games, and I just felt that we were getting better and better along the way, and I’m curious to see [Wednesday] how we’re going to be as a team at the same time.”

Roy was hired as the Avalanche’s head coach and vice president of hockey operations in May after spending the past eight seasons as the bench leader of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

He led the Remparts to a 348-196-0 record from 2005 to last year, and the team won the QMJHL Memorial Cup in 2006 as Canadian Hockey League champions under Roy’s watch.

Similarly, MacKinnon helped lead the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) to the 2013 Memorial Cup and enters his NHL playing career with the type of fanfare Roy left his with. He was selected in June as Colorado’s first No. 1 overall selection in the NHL Draft and was only the third 17-year-old selected first overall in the past 26 drafts (Sidney Crosby; Joe Thornton).

That said, Wednesday night’s puck drop will signify some hefty “firsts” for each.

For Roy, it will be his first time coaching in an NHL regular-season game, and it will be his first time since 2003 he’ll back in Denver with a regular-season win or loss on the line.

For MacKinnon, it will be the official start to a career that much is expected of.

“I’m usually a pretty calm guy, but you never know, it’s the first game,” MacKinnon said, as only an 18-year-old can. ”There’s a lot of excitement around this game. I’m not nervous yet. I will be, but after the game gets going I’ll start to settle down a little bit. [It] might take that first shift to get the butterflies out of my system.”

One thing’s for certain: the moment isn’t going to be too big for Roy. He’s already a legend in the game of hockey, and Wednesday night is just another chapter in his story.

He was asked Tuesday if there was anything about Opening Night that he remembered as a player that he was especially looking forward to experiencing as a coach.

He didn’t answer the question.

Instead he talked about how he’s hoping to evolve as a coach, tomorrow night and for the rest of his career. His approach to the answer wasn’t a sign of rudeness or of him misunderstanding the query.

He’s just dialed in.

“My objective is to learn and get better along the way,” he said succinctly, “and at the same time to see where our players are and to see what they’re doing well on the ice.”

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