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.”
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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