DENVER Patrick Roy walked across the ice with a chant of ''Roy! Roy! Roy!'' tracing every step. He reached his spot on the red carpet next to his family, but no one was about to stop cheering.
The ovation lasted nearly four minutes and Roy soaked up every moment.
''I remember going to the rink for the first time with my parents and my brothers when I was eight years old,'' Roy said. ''To stand here in front you tonight 30 years later is priceless.''
Colorado retired Roy's No. 33 on Tuesday night, sending it to the rafters next to Ray Bourque's 77 in a 20-minute ceremony before the Avalanche's game against Calgary.
With his wife and three children by his side, Roy said goodbye to an organization, teammates and fans in a city where he won two Stanley Cup titles and set the standard for goaltenders.
''It is our privilege that the Colorado Avalanche organization will retire the jersey of the greatest goalie to ever play,'' Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix said. ''Patrick, you are in a league of your own. Really Patrick, your impact has been unparalleled in the game of hockey.''
It's a hard point to argue.
Roy retired in May after 19 seasons holding nearly every major goaltending record. He is the only three-time winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the MVP of the playoffs, and he's the NHL's career leader in wins and games.
A four-time Stanley Cup winner the first two were with Montreal Roy is the all-time playoff leader in wins, shutouts and games. He also popularized the butterfly style of goaltending by dropping to his knees to block shots.
''He's the best goalie of all-time and it kind of played on your mind even before you started the game,'' said Steve Konowalchuk, who played 11 seasons against Roy before being traded to Colorado two weeks ago.
But when Roy was traded to Colorado in 1995, some said he left his best years behind in Montreal. Like he did throughout his career, Roy used the criticism as motivation and proved his skeptics wrong.
In his eight seasons in Denver, Colorado won two Stanley Cup titles, reached the conference finals six times and won a record nine straight division titles. Roy's best season came in 2001-02, when he had a 1.94 goals-against average and a career-high nine shutouts at age 37.
''It's a tough question for me to answer,'' Roy said of being the greatest goalie ever. ''All I can say, I did my best and every time I was on the ice; I played with passion, the desire to win. I'm very proud of the way things went.''
And the Avalanche and their fans didn't hold back in thanking him.
A five-minute video montage of Roy's career played on four huge screens set up in the corners and the No. 33 flashed on scoreboards throughout the arena.
Most of the sold out crowd wore Roy jerseys or had No. 33 painted on their faces, and even the ones that paid $500 a ticket seemed to get their money's worth by cheering almost nonstop.
Each of Roy's children received gifts from the Avalanche, and Lacroix presented Patrick and his wife, Michele, with a large painting of a snow-covered mountain set behind a grove of aspens.
Players from both teams tapped their sticks on the ice throughout the ceremony, and Colorado's five starters each came over to give him a hug just before it ended.
Bourque even returned to Denver for the event, watching the festivities from a luxury box.
''Playing for the Avalanche, wearing this uniform for the past eight years and working behind a group of players that was never satisfied was a great, and I mean great, honor,'' Roy said.
But don't expect him to come back.
Signing scorers Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya wasn't enough to lure Roy back, nor was a call from Avs defenseman Rob Blake.
No, Roy's having too much fun enjoying the extra time with his family and working with his junior team in Quebec.
''The only comeback I'm going to make is to get to my playing weight,'' he said with a laugh. ''I don't know if that's going to be possible.''
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