Garneau was best known for his broadcast coverage of NHL hockey and the Olympics, mostly for Radio-Canada, during a lengthy, award-winning career.
He died early Sunday at Montreal's Royal Victoria hospital following complications from heart surgery.
Born in Quebec City in 1930, Garneau began his life-long passion for the Olympics after getting a job with Radio-Canada in 1957.
He covered the 1960 Summer Games in Rome and worked at 23 Olympics in all.
Known for his mastery of the French language and encyclopedic knowledge of sports, he was the winner of five Gemini Awards, including one for lifetime achievement. He also wrote five books.
During the 2012 London Games, he worked on RDS, the French language sports station, alongside broadcaster Pierre Houde and was as energetic as ever.
"He could make you break out in laughter without ever losing his eloquence, the quality of his French, and his diction," Houde said Sunday.
"We're remembering him today and our emotions are going in every direction — we're crying and smiling at the same time."
The Montreal Canadiens issued a statement mourning his death, calling him a "legendary voice" of the Habs on La Soiree du hockey, the French equivalent of Hockey Night in Canada.
"It is with deep sadness that we have learned of the passing of Richard Garneau," the statement said.
"The entire Canadiens organization wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to the Garneau family."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also weighed in, saying in French on Twitter that the sports world had lost one of its greats.