12/10/2014 05:00 EST | Updated 02/08/2015 05:59 EST

Jean Béliveau funeral: Thousands expected to bid Habs great a final farewell

There will be standing room only at the funeral of former Habs great Jean Béliveau in downtown Montreal today.

Thousands are expected to attend the service at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral on René-Lévesque Boulevard, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Béliveau wore No. 4 for the Montreal Canadiens for 21 seasons and inspired players in every subsequent generation with his prowess on the ice and his gentlemanly nature everywhere else.

The hockey legend — a lifelong ambassador for his beloved Habs — died Dec. 2 at the age of 83.

Béliveau’s body lay in state at the Bell Centre Sunday and Monday.

Thousands of Habs fans paid their respects. Some waited in line for more than an hour to sign the book of condolences or shake the hand of Béliveau's wife of over 60 years, Élise.

On Tuesday evening, before the Habs first game on home ice since Béliveau’s death, the Canadiens honoured him with a pre-game ceremony. Historic images were projected on centre ice, fans observed a moment of silence and the empty seat next to Béliveau’s wife was decorated to look like the back of a Habs jersey bearing No. 4.

Today at 1 p.m. a cortege will leave the Bell Centre and head toward the cathedral several blocks east.

The pallbearers will be former Habs players Guy Lafleur, Serge Savard, Yvan Cournoyer, Jean-Guy Talbot, Phil Goyette and Bobby Rousseau.

During the funeral mass, four Habs legends who played with Béliveau will give eulogies.

Former Canadiens Dickie Moore, Ken Dryden, Cournoyer and Savard will share their memories of Le Gros Bill.

Montreal Canadiens co-owner and CEO Geoff Molson will also speak.

Road closures

Montreal police are warning commuters to avoid the downtown area today.

René-Lévesque Boulevard will be closed in both directions between Mansfield and Peel streets from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Metcalfe Street will be shut down to traffic between Ste-Catherine and René-Lévesque from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

CBC live coverage

CBC News Network, local CBC Montreal radio and will carry Béliveau's funeral live beginning 1 p.m. ET, starting with the arrival of the guests.