To those who know the game of hockey well, there was a player who came before Wayne Gretzky that was considered great in every aspect of the game, both on and off the ice. For 20 years, John Beliveau played center for the Montreal Canadiens where he scored 507 goals, was captain for 10 seasons, and won 10 Stanley Cup championships (though his name is on the trophy 17 times because of the 7 victories they won while he was in the front office). As if he hadn’t given the Canadiens enough on the ice, once he retired he quickly became an executive within the teams business side and remained a part of the team for the rest of his life. Unfortunately the legend recently passed away at the age of 83 and has left behind a legacy that will be difficult to compete with.
Known as one of hockey’s classiest players both off and on the ice, John Beliveau was loved by all and will be sorely missed. A perfect example of how loved he was can be seen when he retired in 1971 and was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972. For his fans, his death was something that they had wrestled with many times due to the many health scares he faced later in his life. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2000 and, after losing 30 pounds due to intensive treatment, he beat it. Then, in 2012, he had a stroke. While his death might have been expected by many, there is no denying that his loss will be keenly felt by everyone in the international hockey community.
John Beliveau was so respected in Canada that he was constantly being asked to join offers to join the government. He garnered respect from both his teammates as well as his opponents and has earned praise for both his playing ability and his general demeanor from all corners of the game. While he may no longer be with us, there is no denying that John Beliveau’s impact on hockey and sportsmanship will be felt for decades to come as he is remembered as one of the greatest players to ever skate.
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