Jean Beliveau: A Class of His Own
Posted on January 5th, 2015
The late Montreal Canadiens’ legend Jean Beliveau leaves a legacy that stretches far beyond his accomplishments in hockey.
Beliveau was first noticed by the Canadiens at age 15, when their general manager at the time, Frank Selke, got him to sign a “B-form”, meaning if he ever decided to turn pro he would have to play for the Habs. Beliveau became a star in the Quebec Senior Hockey League with the Quebec Aces, and when he didn’t show much interest in turning pro, Selke and the Habs bought the entire league. Now although not part of the NHL, the QSHL became a “minor pro league”, forcing Beliveau to join the Canadiens.
I would think Selke and company didn’t regret that investment.
Jean Beliveau would spend the next 18 seasons playing for Montreal, his last 10 as their captain. His accolades include winning 10 Stanley Cups as a player, an Art Ross Trophy (1956), two Hart Memorial Trophy’s (1956, 1964), and the inaugural Conn Smythe Trophy (1965). His #4 jersey was retired in Montreal in 1971 and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame the following year.
After retiring in 1971, Beliveau stayed with the Canadiens as an executive; in this time the team won seven more Stanley Cups. His combined 17 Stanley Cups is a record that likely will stand the test of time.
An icon as a player, but also an icon as a humanitarian: the virtue that sets Beliveau apart from hockey players of any era.
Beliveau was a Grand Officer on the National Order of Quebec, and was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. Beliveau’s name is on Canada’s Walk of Fame and his face has been on Canadian postage stamps, among other honors. He also set up the charitable Jean Beliveau Foundation following his retirement as a player, and in the 1990’s he declined positions offered as a Senate post (twice) by Brian Mulroney, and later as Governor General of Canada by Jean Chretien.
Beliveau passed away peacefully in Quebec at age 83, on December 2, 2014. His passing came nine days after the hockey world lost Pat Quinn, who spent a lot of time in Vancouver – a player then general manager, president and coach for the Canucks at different periods, and later a part owner of the Vancouver Giants.