Jean Beliveau was a class act on and off the ice. Fans know it. Those who play the game know it. And Don Cherry knows it.
The “Coach's Corner” host took to Twitter Wednesday to share a touching anecdote about the man the hockey world nicknamed “Le Gros Bill.”
1) What can you say that hasn’t been said about Jean Beliveau. I keep hearing the word class all day when people are describing him and they— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) December 4, 2014
2) are so right. It’s the old story, in the dictionary, beside the word class you would find Jean Beliveau’s picture. I remember when I was— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) December 4, 2014
3) at the Montreal training camp, hearing a story, one of the rookies after the game had thrown the Canadiens sweater on the floor and the— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) December 4, 2014
4) the room went silent. Jean Beliveau picked up the sweater, got a hanger, hung it up and turned to the rookie and said “never let this— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) December 4, 2014
5) this sweater hit the floor again”. Another story told to me in recent years, is about signing autographs. Have you seen Jean Beliveau’s— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) December 4, 2014
6) or Bobby Orr’s, Wayne Gretzky’s, Bobby Hull’s, Guy Lafleur’s? You can read it. One day while signing autographs, Jean looked over at— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) December 4, 2014
7) another guy scribbling his name and asked “do you have no pride in your name?” He was a class guy. . I’ll use the word class too.— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) December 4, 2014
8) If someone like UN asked me to send one person to represent Canada it would be Jean Beliveau.— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) December 4, 2014
The former Montreal Canadiens player, and later executive, died Tuesday at the age of 83.
Over a career spanning 18 seasons with the Habs, Beliveau lead his team to 10 Stanley Cup Championships — five of them consecutive wins. He played the game with passion and grace, attributes which followed him long after he hung up his skates in 1971.
Fans will be able to pay their respects to the hockey legend at Montreal’s Bell Centre on Sunday. A private funeral has been scheduled for Dec. 10.
A straight-talking player with deep love and respect for the game, Beliveau once said his appointment as captain in 1961 came with the responsibility to “be at the disposal of your teammates.” And he certainly made his mark as a leader.
“When I came on the team in 1970-1, I came in the room and I said, ‘Hi, Mr. Beliveau,’” former teammate Réjean Houle said in a 2011 NHL interview.
“He said, ‘Look, don’t call me Mr. Beliveau. We’re going to play together. You can call me Jean.’ I always had a problem getting his name to be Jean. For me it was always Mr. Beliveau.”
After learning about his death, Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux called Beliveau one of the “greatest players in NHL history,” adding he was “class personified.”
“He was a hero to generations of his fellow French Canadians and hockey fans everywhere,” Lemieux said in a statement.
“Our sport has lost a great ambassador. He will be missed.”
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