Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau died last night. He was 83.
Beliveau is arguably the best player to wear a Habs uniform. No NHL player has ever won more Stanley Cups. He was a part of 10 Stanley Cup teams in a career that spanned nearly two decades. Beliveau retired in 1971 and would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame the following year when it waived its usual three year waiting period. Beliveau’s name would appear on seven additional Stanley Cups as an executive for the Canadiens; the last being in 1993. It was the last time a Canadian NHL team won the Stanley Cup.
I did not know that Beliveau was offered a seat in the Senate by Tory Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the 1980’s nor was I aware that he was also offered the position of Governor General by Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien in 1994. However, Beliveau declined both appointments.
Beliveau is fondly remembered for his dignity, class, accessibility and personally answering all his fan mail. Here’s what Kevin McGran of The Toronto Star wrote about Beliveau when he asked about approaching him when he was covering the Alan Eagleson scandal with the NHL Players Association nearly two decades ago:
Anyway, back to the main story, I needed to get hold of Mr. Beliveau for that story, and being a young reporter with The Canadian Press and about zero contacts, I asked a colleague how I could get in touch with Mr. Beliveau.
He said, “look him up.”
I thought he was joking. But no. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s — i.e., before the invention of Information Super Highway, later to become known as the Internet — we had every phone book in the country in the newsroom library.
I went to Montreal’s. Looked up, “Beliveau, J.” There he was. I called. He answered.
These things just don’t happen. Not with big names. Not then, not now. You have to know people who know people. Agents get involved. PR people. And if they don’t know you, if you haven’t been around, they don’t tell you anything.
But not Mr. Beliveau — as iconic and famous as he was, he was a man of the people, and treated everyone with respect. The man personified class.
If there is a Hall of Fame in Heaven, I’m sure Jean Beliveau will be admitted immediately.