Jean Beliveau, the graceful former captain of the Montreal Canadiens, has died.
He was 83.
If you were a Maple Leafs fans in the 1950s and 1960s, it was easy to hate the Montreal Canadiens. But not Beliveau, a gifted skater, natural scorer and respected leader who was a true gentleman of the game.
“It is with a great deal of sadness that the Canadiens organization learned tonight the passing of Jean Beliveau. He was 83 years old,” the Canadiens tweeted late Tuesday night.
“A true legend has passed away. Honoured to say I wore the same colours as the man. Condolences to the Beliveau family,” Canadiens forward Brandon Prust wrote on Twitter as news of the legend’s passing spread.
Beliveau’s name appears on the Stanley Cup a record 17 times, 10 as a player and seven as an executive for the Canadiens.
When he retired after the 1970-71 season, he went out as the Habs all-time leading scorer with 507 regular-season goals, 712 assists for 1,219 points in 1,125 games. Guy Lafleur has since passed him in points. Only Henri Richard and Larry Robinson played more games for Montreal. He was also Montreal's longest-serving captain, later tied by Saku Koivu.
He was the first player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for his performance in the 1965 Stanley Cup playoffs. He is also the first and only captain to win the Conn Smythe and score the game-winning goal in the same night.
It has been a sad time for hockey. Pat Quinn, the former coach of the Maple Leafs, died last week. Gordie Howe has suffered strokes that have put his life in danger. And Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray has gone public with the fact his cancer has gone to the most extreme Stage 4 level.
Beliveau was a Companion of the Order of Canada and a member of Canada's Walk of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame.