Hockey Players pay tribute to Jean Beliveau
Canadians are mourning the passing of a legend, as former Montreal Canadiens captain Jean Béliveau died at age 83 on Tuesday. Béliveau was loved by hockey fans for winning 10 Stanley Cups as a player with the Canadiens, but also by those outside the arena for his service to Canada.
"He was the perfect gentleman," said former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who offered Béliveau the office of Governor General in 1994.
Béliveau rejected it for family reasons, but Chretien always held the Habs great in high regard.
"Aline and I had him [over] for dinner when we discussed the possibility and we were like fans waiting for a star to come to the residence."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a hockey historian himself, issued a statement and offered his condolences.
“Mr. Béliveau will be remembered as a hockey giant who inspired a nation with his outstanding skill, humility and pure love of the game," Harper said.
"His legacy lives on in the records he set, the legions of hockey players that he inspired, and the deep love he shared with his home province of Quebec.”
The Canadiens will have tributes to Béliveau over the next week and team owner Geoff Molson said the iconic figure will always be remembered with respect and love.
"We're going to give all of our fans an opportunity to celebrate such a great man," Molson said.
Many people took to social media to react to Béliveau's passing.
One of the finest centres who ever played, Béliveau helped lead the Canadiens to an unprecedented ten Stanley Cups during the 1950s and 1960s over his 20-year career.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre summed up the feeling surrounding the passing of the Canadiens legend when he announced that the hockey world and the entire country would be mourning this great loss.
In his years as a Canadien – a record 10 of them as captain – Béliveau would capture 10 Stanley Cup championships, two Hart Trophies as the NHL’s most valuable player, an Art Ross trophy as the league’s top scorer, and the Conn Smythe trophy awarded to the most valuable player of the playoffs.
A strapping 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds in his playing days, he remained an imposing and dignified presence even as a silver-haired octogenarian – he was a reliable presence with Élise at Canadiens' games in their usual seats behind the home players’ bench, first at the Forum, then at the Bell Centre.
In the early 1990s, then-prime minister Brian Mulroney offered Béliveau a seat in the Senate; he declined the job on two occasions, and in 1993 told an interviewer that he did so immediately because “I didn’t want someone so important to waste a Saturday on me.”
It was some years later, Jean Chrétien, Mr. Mulroney’s successor, offered Béliveau the chance to be Governor-General, but he demurred because of his commitments to his family and grandchildren – he also suggested he wasn’t worthy of the honour.
After retiring from the game, Béliveau amassed dozens of corporate board appointments, for years, he sat on the board of Molson Breweries. He also piled up honorary degrees and civilian awards by the bushel, a testament to his tireless charitable and community work.
In the 1970s and 80s, his eponymous foundation spent millions of dollars to help youth in distressed communities – and in typical form, he did so with zero fanfare.
Record books can't do Béliveau justice, said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
"No record book can capture, no image can depict, no statue can convey the grandeur of the remarkable Jean Béliveau, whose elegance and skill on the ice earned the admiration of the hockey world while his humility and humanity away from the rink earned the love of fans everywhere,"
Jean Beliveau was a very classy gentleman and yet he always remained humble. Flags will be lowered in the capital and, no doubt, all over Canada, to honour Béliveau this week.
I have loved and been a devoted fan of Jean Beliveau most of my life and like my fellow Canadians will sorely miss him. Rest well and peacefully Jean. You will always be our hero.