Roy: I knew Brodeur would break record

Martin Brodeur is one win from tying the greatest goalie record in NHL history, and Patrick Roy will be on hand Saturday night in Montreal to cheer him on.

"I will attend the game Saturday, for sure I want to be there," Roy told ESPN.com in an interview Thursday.

Roy's 551 career regular-season victory tally is only one ahead of Brodeur's total after the New Jersey Devils netminder beat the Phoenix Coyotes 5-2 on Thursday night.

Because the playoffs begin next week in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, in which Roy is coach and part-owner of the Quebec Remparts, the Hall of Famer is limited in his window to catch Brodeur in person as he chases history.

"So Saturday is really my only chance," said Roy, whose Remparts play Friday and Sunday. "I look forward to it, it's important for me to be there. I hope to have the chance to talk to him in person and express to him that I'm extremely proud for him. It's something very special that he's doing right now. It's something that he should be proud of."

Those warm wishes might surprise some, given the intense rivalry the superstar goalies had when Roy was still playing. But that's what it was, Roy said, a healthy and very competitive rivalry, certainly nothing personal.

"I would say it's probably more of respect more than anything else," Roy said when asked to describe his relationship with Brodeur. "Obviously, we both are very competitive persons. At the time [when Roy still played], knowing that if we wanted to win a Stanley Cup there was a good chance we had to play against each other, we both had the same objective. We wanted to bring our team to the next level, we both wanted to win the Vezina, so there was a bit of competition between the both of us.

"But I'd use the word 'respect' when you ask me [about the relationship]."

But close? No. Roy was already a superstar with two Stanley Cup rings by the time Brodeur broke into the NHL full time in 1993-94. They were of different generations (Brodeur remembers being a kid and seeing Roy at the Stanley Cup parade in the streets of Montreal in 1986). They crossed paths as teammates for Team Canada at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, but that was about it.

"We never took time over the years to go have a beer or talk really or anything like that," Roy said. "Even in Nagano, I was doing my thing and he was doing his thing. But I have a lot of respect for him."

It's interesting Roy brought up Nagano. If there is any kind of a sore subject for Brodeur when it comes to Roy, Nagano is it. Brodeur hasn't been shy to say it, either.

During Team Canada's flight from Vancouver to Nagano in February 1998, Brodeur was incensed when coach Marc Crawford informed him he would not play a game in the tournament unless Roy was injured. From Crawford's point of view, he probably figured it made sense to lay it out ahead of time that Patrick was his guy, so there was no confusion.

But Brodeur took it as a personal affront, which he detailed in his autobiography, "Brodeur: Beyond The Crease," co-written with Toronto Star columnist and regular ESPN.com contributor Damien Cox. And Brodeur, at the very least, thought he should have started the bronze-medal game against Finland. But he went home without having played a single minute, and, to this day, he is sour about it.

"I don't recall any of that, to be honest with you," Roy said when we asked him about Brodeur's frustration with the Nagano situation. "All I recall is that after we lost to the Czechs in the semifinals, I had to go for the [doping] test. It took me a long time. When I came out, everybody was gone. Then, I went back to the village and we had a special team meeting at night. There was a lot of talk about how we wanted to deal with what was going on [playing for bronze]. Crawford came to me and he said, 'You're playing.' I wasn't aware that Martin [wanted to play that day].

"I understand, it's hard to make a team like this where all players play big roles on the team," Roy continued. "I'm sure that Marty wanted to play in the tournament, for sure he felt he could have contributed to the success of the team. And I would have understood if the coach would have wanted to make a goalie change [for the bronze-medal game). I would have had no problem with that."

The Nagano episode, at least from Brodeur's point of view, spiced up their rivalry, which culminated in the 2001 Stanley Cup finals matchup between the two goalies, won by Roy's Avalanche in seven games after Colorado rallied from 3-2 down in the series.

"For me, there was also disappointment to lose to Roy. There were memories of Nagano when he had insisted on playing every game and I hadn't played a minute," Brodeur recounted with Cox in his book. "I took the 2001 finals personally because it was a chance to go toe to toe with a goalie who had so many records, a goalie who was supposed to be the man, a real playoff warrior. We had him on the ropes, but couldn't finish him off."

To Roy, that 2001 series spoke to the intense but respectful rivalry he believes he had with Brodeur. And with win No. 552 soon on the way for Brodeur, Roy insisted Thursday that he passes the torch with pride.

"I'm very happy for Martin," Roy said. "I knew when I made the decision to retire, Martin would break that record eventually. I felt very comfortable with it. I'm really happy for him. He's a great competitor. It's amazing how he's handled playing so many games year after year, and succeed, as well.

"He's performed at a high level, facing the expectations year after year. He should be really proud of himself. If someone knows how hard it is to get there, it's me, and I certainly can appreciate what he's doing. He also has something that's really special, he has a great approach to the game."

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.