Just Remember One Thing: Roy Is a Winner

By Michael Wilbon
Wednesday, October 18, 2000; 12:00 AM

I am numb to records now. ESPN and the Elias Sports Bureau did this. We're bombarded with so many statistics, we're told so often that what just happened has never happened before, we no longer know the difference between a record and stupid, useless trivia. "It's a record for grand slams in one inning off of a left-handed set-up man." Or, "He is the first married running back in NFL history to gain 1,500 yards rushing, 1,000 yards receiving, 500 yards returning punts and 500 yards passing."

It's insane, really. It doesn't do anybody any good, except the young dweebs hired by sports radio and TV networks to come up with this drivel. And it leaves us not knowing exactly what to make of legitimate records, such as the one Patrick Roy set here against the Washington Capitals last night.

For 30 years Terry Sawchuk was without peer when it came to NHL games won by a goaltender. But Roy, by winning for the 448th time in his 17-year career, surpassed Sawchuk. The Capitals, still winless, will be history's footnote in Roy's dramatic 4-3 overtime victory for still-undefeated Colorado.

If the number 447 wasn't right there on the tip of your tongue, don't worry. Few people paid any attention to Roy's rising victory total until a year ago. And the number doesn't reflect brilliance as much as it does endurance and consistent excellence while playing with good teams for a long, long time. Beyond that, hockey isn't a sport of magic numbers. Only obsessed baseball is. I mean, what's the magic number in the NHL? What's hockey's equivalent of 60 home runs or a .400 batting average or 30 victories for a pitcher or DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak?

There probably isn't one. Montreal's George Hainsworth had 22 shutouts in a 44-game season nearly 80 years ago, but that was back when a goal in hockey was about as common as a goal in soccer. It could be Wayne Gretzky's 51-game scoring streak in 1983-84, a stretch during which he scored an utterly unbelievable 153 points. To me, it's Gretzky's 92 goals scored, another number that becomes more and more impressive as the NHL retreats to a close-to-the-vest dead-puck era.

Probably the most impressive thing about Roy's record is it deals with the most important number on the stat sheet: winning. Not even included in that record total are 121 playoff victories, many of which led to three Stanley Cup championships. And at 35, Roy appears to be as sound, as healthy and as passionate as he has ever been about winning a whole lot more. He was player of the week in the NHL last week. His teammate Adam Foote said last week, "We are using this for energy. We're feeding off of it. It goes right down the line, and everybody is jumping on with him."

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