Jean Béliveau, one of the greatest players to ever skate for the Montreal Canadiens, has died at the age of 83.
“It is with a great deal of sadness that the Canadiens organization learned tonight the passing of Jean Béliveau,” the NHL team tweeted late Tuesday night.
Mr. Béliveau has a special place in our hearts for an interview he graciously gave to George Dyke about his time in the early 1970’s driving a Citroën DS that was painted with the Montreal Canadiens team colours. (Read the full article “Le Beliveau DS” in our Citroenvie document archives.)
Béliveau stood out on the ice because of his size, earning him the nickname of Le Gros Bill. He had a powerful, sweeping stride and tremendous stick-handling skills — a combination that earned him 10 Stanley Cups in 20 seasons.
Béliveau was born in Trois-Rivieres, Que., in 1931. When he was four years old his father gave him his first pair of skates. His family moved to Victoriaville when Béliveau was six and it wasn’t long until he was playing shinny on the frozen rink in his backyard. Béliveau played most of his hockey on that rink until he was 12 and joined his school’s team.
At the age of 15, his skill caught the eye of Canadiens general manager Frank Selke. Béliveau signed a contract saying he would join the Habs if he ever went professional.
That happened in the 1953-1954 NHL season, and by 1956 he won the Art Ross Memorial Trophy, given to the league’s leading scorer, and the Hart Memorial Trophy, for the league’s most valuable player.
After playing 20 seasons with the Habs, and earning the first Conn Smythe Trophy, Béliveau retired in 1971 as the team’s all-time points leader and the league’s all-time scoring leader. That fall, his No. 4 was retired, and the following year he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
After his playing days ended, Béliveau remained with the team as an executive, having his name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup another seven times.
When he retired, he established the Jean Béliveau Foundation, which was transferred to the Society for Disabled Children in 1993. In 1998 he became a Companion of the Order of Canada and in 2001 his name was added to Canada’s Walk of Fame. He was named the honorary captain of 2010 Canadian men’s Olympic Hockey Team.
Before passing, he said, “To this day, I thank God every night for giving me the talent to play professional sport.”
CBC Radio’s call in program Cross Country Checkup with Rex Murphy ran a tribute to Jean Béliveau on Sunday December 7th. George Dyke called in about his conversation he had with Mr Béliveau about the Citroën back in 2009. Even though they had a high volume of calls George actually got through. The associate producer who answered the phone chatted with him briefly, put him on hold for a couple of minutes and voila – he was on the air and recounting the story we ran in Citroënvie. Consequently George heard from quite a few people who were listening, including Denis Arcand, Car Writer for the Montreal newspaper La Presse, who ran the story as part of their memorial tribute to Mr Béliveau on Wednesday Dec. 10, the day of his funeral. See: https://auto.lapresse.ca/actualites/201412/10/01-4826803-jean-beliveau-george-et-la-citroen-bleu-blanc-rouge.php
And Richard Bonfond in California, upon reading our Blog tribute, remembered that he had a photograph stashed away showing Jean Béliveau being handed the keys to his car at Citroën in Montreal. What a find! Obviously that’s a different DS in the background. Anybody know who the guy on the left is?