Islanders head coach Patrick Roy is one of eight goalies to...

Islanders head coach Patrick Roy is one of eight goalies to have played in at least 20 regular-season NHL games and as well as be a head coach for at least 20 games.  Credit: Getty Images (left); Jim McIsaac (right)

Patrick Roy knows what you think about goaltenders.

“Loners,” he said. “A little different.”

But Roy never thought of himself that way as a four-time Stanley Cup winner and a Hockey Hall of Famer.

“We all have our little things, obviously,” he told Newsday. “But I always loved to communicate and talk with the guys. I was trying to not be different.”

That is one reason he has been able to make a rare transition — from goaltender to NHL head coach, first with Colorado in the mid-2010s and now with the Islanders.

But Roy acknowledged that being one of the guys is not the only challenge for goalies who aspire to lead entire teams. There are matters of strategy and skills that simply are not part of a goalie's experience.

So even the best players at that position have a lot to learn, which helps explain why only eight men ever have played at least 20 regular-season games as an NHL goalie and coached at least 20 games in the NHL. And Roy is the only one doing it now.

Perhaps No. 1 among the challenges is the natural separation goalies have from their teammates because of their unique role.

Scott Gordon, who coached the Islanders from 2008-10, felt that last part acutely when he was a goalie, including 23 games with the Nordiques in the early 1990s.

While he had “a singular focus, and that’s the puck,” his teammates were digging deeper into the game.

“One of the things that I missed about playing hockey, having played goalie and not another position, is the camaraderie that you get on the bench,” said Gordon, now an assistant with the Sharks.

“There’s a lot of dialogue that goes on on the bench, different ideas that are shared between players, at practice, in games. It’s almost like a foreign language. You’re not really a part of it, because you don't have those experiences.”

“One of the things that my teammates used to say is, ‘For a goalie, you're really normal.’”

-- Scott Gordon 

Steve Valiquette, an MSG analyst who was an NHL goalie in the 2000s, including for the Islanders and Rangers, said goalies might be included in pregame strategy for specific matters such as penalty kills.

But, he added, “Goalies don't have to attend every meeting.” He said concerns such as forechecks, breakouts and the like were “all things that just kind of flew over our heads when we were players.”

One might think being a goalie is akin to a baseball catcher, who faces out at his teammates and knows what they all are up to. That position has produced a disproportionate number of managers.

But hockey goalies are more like their counterparts in sports such as soccer, which also has seen few goalies become head coaches. (One exception is Bruce Arena, who is from Franklin Square and led the U.S. men’s national team.)

They are part of the action but separate from it at the same time.

“Let's talk about practice,” Valiquette said. “When the coaches go to the dry erase board, look at the pile.

“More often than not, you'll see the goalies have peeled away from the pile and are speaking to the goalie coach . . . We have our game plan, they have theirs. We are individuals within a team sport that play completely different sports.

“Look at our gear. We aren’t dressed like them. We don't skate like them. We don't do anything like them. So there's not a lot that we know about what they do in nuances and specifics.”

Still, Gordon said there are aspects of goaltending that help him with skaters, including the importance of controlling the center of the ice.

“The net, last time I checked, is in the middle of the ice,” he said. “It's a basic concept, but that whole thing about angles as a goaltender, I can see that for me, it’s a real easy thing to understand.”

Gordon said when he started coaching, he knew little about systems, and thus had to work harder at it. “I probably couldn’t even write down 10 drills,” he said.

Roy said that while being a goalie gave him some unique insights “structure-wise,” he added that “skill-wise,” he had a lot to learn, and still does.

“I understand stick-on-pucks stuff, but I'm not a skills person,” he said. “So how to show someone how to skate, it's not on me, or how to do the stickhandling, it won't be me.

“That's why I need to surround myself with quality people, because sometimes you cannot do everything.”

The rise in the number and sophistication of goalie coaches has led to a further specialization at the position — and specialization among coaches themselves.

“Goalies are goalie coaches, and forwards and defensemen, they’re coaches — period,” said Ron Low, who played 11 seasons with six teams as a goalie then coached the Oilers in the late 1990s and Rangers for two seasons in the early 2000s.

But Low does not believe there is any reason for goalies not to be head coaches.

“I know they’ve got a different view of the game, because they’re seeing it from the opposite end every day,” he said. “But I think they have a pretty good insight into how the game’s supposed to be played.”

Low said he had less knowledge of his teams’ offense but a keen idea of how to defend the opposition, for obvious reasons.

“When you get back to our zone, I knew exactly what I wanted as a coach,” he said, “because I know I wanted shots from the outside, don’t give one-timers up from the slot, all those things.”

The eight who have both played goalie and coached in 20 or more regular-season games are, in order of games played, Roy, Eddie Johnston, Glen Hanlon, Gerry Cheevers, Low, Emile Francis, Hugh Lehman and Gordon.

None has won a Stanley Cup as a head coach. But Francis, who coached parts of 10 seasons with the Rangers and 778 regular-season games overall, led the Rangers to the Cup Final in 1972. They lost to the Bruins, whose goalies that season were Cheevers and Johnston.

Gordon and Garth Snow were an even rarer coach/GM combo of former goalies with the Islanders.

Former Islanders coach and GM Mike Milbury played with and later under Bruins goalie-turned-coach Cheevers. He said the transition is not easy.

“It’s like playing a different sport, really,” he said. “When you’re a goaltender you have this little semicircle that you seldom go out of and you're watching a play from sometimes 200 feet away.

“You're kind of relaxed because you have to be so focused when the puck crosses the red line and the blue line coming at you, but your reads are unique to the sport. You’re a backstop . . . It’s a totally different mindset.”

Roy came to the Islanders having nothing to prove to players. They knew that he honed his coaching in the Quebec junior league, where in two stints over 13 seasons he went 524-255-66 and won two Memorial Cups.

“He's a passionate person, and he's passionate about the sport,” Valiquette said. “He was so passionate that he went back to school and learned because he didn't know everything that he knows right now the day that he retired from playing.”

Roy’s players seem open to the idea of a goalie leading them.

Captain Anders Lee even played for one at Notre Dame — Jeff Jackson, who was an Islanders assistant in the mid-2000s.

“[Jackson] was a goalie back in his time and he had a deep knowledge of the game and an understanding and took that into his coaching career,” Lee said.

Bo Horvat said of Roy, “He always has little tidbits of where to shoot on goalies or where he thinks we can take advantage. But he has such a knowledge for different parts of the game, too.

“A guy like him, he’s seen the whole game in front of him his entire career. It’s cool to pick his brain that way.”

Maybe one secret to being a goalie-turned-coach is, as Roy said, to not fit the old goalie stereotype.

“One of the things that my teammates used to say is, ‘For a goalie, you're really normal,’ ” Gordon said. “I think today, there's always going to be some outliers that are a little bit different, but for the most part, the goaltenders usually have pretty good personalities and are closer to the normal side.”

With safer equipment than in the past, “I don't think you have to be as wired differently to want to play goal now as you maybe had to before,” Gordon said.

If Roy has a long run with the Islanders, perhaps he can inspire other goalies to get into coaching. But few can match Patrick Roy’s stature.

Does he believe there is a bias against allowing goalies to become coaches?

“I never thought of that, quite honestly,” Roy said. “I think you have it or you don't have it.”

Roy has the chance to show he does have it. History suggests most goalies don’t.

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