By Bill Hoppe
BUFFALO — Three years ago, Sabres prospect Frederick Roy bolted from the game he loved, all the way to Hollywood. The teenager needed a mental break, wanted to find a new passion.
Thousands of miles from home and about a million more from hockey, Roy immersed himself in acting.
The son of Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy hired a manager, went on auditions and took classes. He even landed a small role as a background actor in a Disney commercial.
“It was a great experience, loved it there, living in California for one year. It was a blast,” Frederick Roy said last week following a session of summer development camp inside the First Niagara Center. “I got to try something different, found a new passion – something that was really fun for me to try.”
Roy understood leaving hockey, even temporarily, could make returning to the sport tough.
“I didn’t care. Life is meant to be lived in the moment,” Roy said. “So to me, it was a moment thing, you know? You have one life to live. Live it to the fullest, and whatever happens happens. Everyone has their difficulty in life, everyone has their hardship, and you got to go through it.”
But in finding a new passion, Roy realized he longed for his old one. He missed the dressing room camaraderie, lacing up his skates and “working hard for that guy beside you.”
Refreshed mentally from the “personal reasons” that forced him from hockey, Roy returned to the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, the team his father has coached for seven seasons.
“I was 100 percent mentally there,” said Roy, who was never drafted. “I wanted to come back and finish what I started as a kid.”
Acting is on the backburner for now.
“I had a new perspective on life … and in general it did make me a better player,” Roy said about acting.
Roy tallied 26 times in 2010-11, 19 more than his rookie season. He became a junior star last year as a winger beside Mikhail Grigorenko, the talented Russian center the Sabres recently picked 12th overall, scoring 27 goals and 92 points.
The Sabres invited the 21-year-old Roy to their scouting combine following the season. That helped him earn a spot in development camp, where he had two assists during Thursday’s scrimmage. He’s hoping a strong showing will be rewarded with an AHL contract.
“That’s the goal right now,” Roy said.
The ultimate goal, however, is cracking the NHL someday. Roy doesn’t lack any of his father’s famous confidence.
Will he be in the big leagues five or 10 years from now?
“Yes I will,” Roy said. “Believe it.”
The younger Roy looks and sounds like Patrick Roy, an all-time great who won four Stanley Cups with Montreal and Colorado from 1985 to 2003. His spunk and tenacity are legendary.
Clearly, the father molded his son to play like him.
“He just taught me one way to play the game, and it’s the hard way, 100 percent every time I step foot on that ice,” said Frederick Roy, who called his father his role model. “I give my heart and soul to the team I’m playing with.”
Roy could have an arduous road ahead to the NHL. His size – the Sabres list him at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds – has clearly scared teams away. The snubs fuel him, however.
“I knew with my size teams weren’t willing to take a chance,” Roy said. “For me, it’s … good motivation for teams that didn’t draft me. Today I’m ready (for) whoever’s willing to take a chance on me. I’m going to take that chance and prove them wrong that they didn’t draft me.”
Roy has already proven some critics wrong by developing into an elite junior talent. He ranked fourth in points last season in the QMJHL and his 65 assists ranked third.
“No one was expecting me when I came back to be at that point,” Roy said. “I knew what my capability was. I knew that if I worked hard, good things would happen. …
“And the way I play, I play a simple way. I don’t complicate my game. I go out there and I play the game the way it’s supposed to be. I back-check, I play a two-way game.”
Grigorenko’s presence also helped Roy reach a new level. The two played beside each other all season, forming a bond on and off the ice. As Roy spoke to a reporter Wednesday, Grigorenko waited close by for his friend.
He called Roy “one of the best linemates in my life” and a player who “makes you better.”
“He’s a great person,” Roy said about Grigorenko. “He’s a hard worker. We’ve got good chemistry together. We work really well together. … We love playing together. So it’d be a great opportunity for us to play together.”
That might just happen someday.