Editor's Update: In honour of one of the greatest members of the Montreal Canadiens, Eyes on the Prize brings back Robert Lefebvre's 2010 birthday tribute featuring a collection of links pertaining to "Le Gros Bill." We've added Francis Bouchard's post on his 500th goal to make it an even 80!
Happy Birthday Mr. Beliveau, and to Mr. Gerald Lefebvre who will be sharing the day with his son, Robert.
Today, August 31, 2010, Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau turns 80 in Earth years, but he is a man whose life is as timeless as his legend is eternal.
In Act One of Beliveau's time, he was a graceful and skilled hockey player, a dazzling talent who helped the Canadiens to ten Stanley Cups. He was an exemplary leader on the ice and a role model beyond its bounds. His career in hockey could be said to have been unparalleled.
In Act Two of Jean's time, he parlayed all that the game of hockey did to benefit him, and gracefully and generously used it to the benefit of others through endless acts of charity though his foundation's name and via others. You could look him up under the word "integrity".
As a present to Beliveau fans, especially the younger ones who may not have had the chance to see him play or learn much about him, below are 80 links to explore Le Gros Bill's life and times.
When Jean Beliveau's career as a hockey player ended in 1971, he moved to the Canadiens front office, but his main goal from there was the foundation in his name that sought to help those less fortunate. It is a doctrine he has never abandoned, making it a priority of his for forty years now.
If you can find a stain on Beliveau's life legacy, you might next want to look for the Pope who wrote all the lyrics for the Rolling Stones.
There is good reason why words such as class and dignity stick to Jean.
Personally, I was privileged to have seen Beliveau play on television for three years, culminating in a season in which I saw him score a hat trick against Minnesota to reach 500 goals, and months later help the Habs to their 17th Stanley Cup.
As a kid, a pre-teen, those were unforgettable times.
As a man, later in life, it is his Second Act, in fact, that has had a more profound effect on me, and it has everything to do with how one chooses to treat those around them. Often, when I encounter personal hurdles, I ask myself how Beliveau would treat the situation. It is a compass that has served me well when employed.
There are many Beliveau stories I have read and heard, but one that has stayed with me was an account in a french newspaper years ago, by a writer who had set a date with Jean for an interview in downtown Montreal. The meeting was to take place in Beliveau's Forum office, but the reporter was asked to meet Jean somewhere down Ste. Catherine Street. They would make time by meeting a bit earlier, and walking along the way. Steps in that direction included a stop inside a bookstore, and once both the reporter and Beliveau neared the sidewalk close to the Forum, he met up with a vagrant of the city streets.
Oozing of an alcoholic stench, unkempt and caught in a stargazing headlight, the hobo grasped at Beliveau, intruding his personal memories upon him. He began a rambling monologue of greatest "Le Gros Bill" moments he'd seen, settling on 1971 as a question period for personal query. The ragged fan, tattered and disheveled in appearance, spent a good ten minutes with Beliveau, trading questions. Jean left the conversation, learning as much of the man, thanking him for stopping to chat. The reporter was taken aback, and impressed as he was by Beliveau's kindness and respect to a total stranger, the story sought on that day was long forgotten and replaced by a moment in which Beliveau was caught being himself.
I was eight years old when Beliveau captained the Canadiens to that 1971 Stanley Cup. Perhaps it was because my father had told me a gazillion Beliveau stories by then that I felt I was older at that time. Looking back, all these years later, it's hard to say.
My father, Gerald Palma Lefebvre, was lucky enough to share a birthday with Le Gros Bill, same day, same year. Both are turning 80, but no lie, my elder looks about 65. Then again, he's never battled out a dozen Stanley Cups. My Dad just broke about every rib he owned crossing finish lines racing bikes on dirt tracks in the 1960's.
I never did get to see Jean Beliveau play live, but I did get to meet him in person once, almost twenty years ago. At a hockey card show in Cornwall in the early 1990's, he signed the only memento I had of him at the time - an Esso NHLsticker book. I mentioned to him that he shared a birthday with Dad. Surprised, Beliveau asked if he was with me that day. He wasn't. No mind, Jean asked what he had done in his life, where he was born, if Dad was retired. I told him I thought my father had retired too young perhaps, as I also thought Le Gros Bill had. Jean said that Dad will benefit from kicking back whilst he's able and not when he's been forced.
I brought up 1971 myself, recalling it, from in my youth. Jean noted that Ken Dryden's exploits notwithstanding, Montreal would not have won the Cup had it not been for the contributions of Frank Mahovlich, Henri Richard, John Ferguson and Jacques Lemaire, among others. Funny, Dad had said those same things!
Happy Birthday, boys!
80 Jean Beliveau Links
Greatest Hockey Legends - Jean Beliveau profile
Dennis Kane.com - ...and the parade winds its way down Jean Beliveau Avenue? (Great idea, by the way!)
Ya! The Habs Rule! - Accolades and Honours Still Come for Jean Beliveau
Montreal Gazette - Jean Beliveau: In a class by himself
Habs Inside Out - Beliveau's Fast Hat Changed the Face of the NHL
Jean Beliveau - Wikipedia profile
Canadiens.com - Beliveau profile and photo gallery
Here's Hockey - A National Film Board short featuring Beliveau
Eyes On The Prize - "I Shared My Husband With The Public": Elise Beliveau
You Tube - Jean Beliveau Legends of Hockey clip
You Tube - Beliveau in Game 7 of the 1965 Finals
Montreal Gazette - Canadiens' Great Jean Beliveau Hopes for a Last Call at Mellon Arena
The H Does Not Stand For Habs - Hope for a Great Man
NHL.com - Pioneers: Jean Beliveau (video)
Eyes On The Prize - Beliveau Memorabilia Up For Grabs at Charity Auction
Eyes On The Prize - Beliveau Unsure How To Handle The Roy Hot Potato
Eyes On The Prize - Jean Beliveau Honoured
Classic Auctions - Beliveau Memorabilia
Check Out My Cards - A Collection of close to 50 Beliveau cards
Montreal Gazette - Mom's Hero: Surprise Meeting with Jean Beliveau left her standing in awe
Journal de Montreal - Une vie qui n'a pas a l'abri des coups durs
Journal de Montreal - Pas toujour facile
Sports Illustrated - Grand Jean, A Mighty Man Is He: May 5, 1969
Google Books - Read excerpts from My Life In Hockey ( a true bookmark folks!)
Canadiens.com - Beliveau Night Brings Them Out
Greatest Hockey Legends - Beliveau Could Fire The Puck
Greatest Hockey Legends - Who was better, Beliveau or the Rocket?
Greatest Hockey Legends - Classic Snapshot from Life Magazine
Greatest Hockey Legends - Corn Tribute for a-maze-ing Beliveau
Greatest Hockey Legends - Jean Beliveau Gets The Honourary C
Dennis Kane.com - Meet Mr. Beliveau, Supermodel!
Pic Search - Hundreds of Beliveau photos
Dennis Kane.com - Two Great Stars Speak to Each Other...
Dennis Kane.com - Beliveau, too bad he's not a real doctor...
The Ryan Coke Experience: The Habs Top 100
Eyes On The Prize - Some Thoughts on Jean Beliveau
Legends of Hockey - Jean Beliveau: Pinnacle
Legends of Hockey - Jean Beliveau: Treasure Chest
NHL.com - Classic Clip: Original Faceoff
La Presse - Jean Beliveau retrouve le Centre Bell
Telegraph Journal - Fans Meet Their Hockey Hero
Ads Past - A Beliveau Endorsement
E-Bay - Links to Beliveau Memorabilia
Dennis Kane.com - Lovely Habs' Wives of the 1950's
Greatest Hockey Legends - Beliveau Should Be The Next Honoured With NHL LIfetime Achievement Award
Canadiens.com - Beliveau receives 2009 NHL Lifetime Achievement Award
Montreal Mystique - Interviews Jean Beliveau
Greatest Hockey Legends - 1965: The Quiet Dynasty Begins
Canadiens.com - Beliveau's Road to 1000 Points
You Tube - Jean Beliveau 1964 All-Star Game
Montreal Gazette - Jean Beliveau: The Ultimate Gentleman
Canadiens.com - Beliveau: Born to Lead
Canadiens.com - Beliveau's Powerplay Hat Trick!
Canadiens.com - Beliveau Arrives in Montreal (film clip)
Greatest Hockey Legends - Jean Beliveau: My Life in Hockey reviewed
Sports Illustrated - Beliveau and the Marvels from Montreal: January 23, 1956
Eyes On The Prize - Celebrating the Generosity and Lifetime Achievements of Jean Beliveau
NHL.com - Jean Beliveau: Nobody Comes Close
RDS/Le Grand Club - Un soir d'hiver au Forum
Montreal Gazette - Sorry Canadiens, Beliveau's first love is his wife Elise!
Studio 1- Beliveau at book premiere
Rootsweb - A vintage photo gallery
Montreal Gazette - He's Hockey's Ultimate Pen Pal
Canada.gc.ca - The Prime Minister's Speech on Jean Beliveau
Classic Auctions - Beliveau Memorabilia Part 2
Montreal Gazette - Beliveau A Hero On and Off the Ice
Montreal Gazette - Beliveau Lends Class to Fundraiser
Bang The Drum - The Vintage Jean Beliveau Table Hockey Game
Bleacher Report - This day in hockey: Beliveau and Howe Inducted into HHOF
NHL.com - Beliveau is a player for the ages
Uwritesports - Beliveau: The Greatest of all Time?
The Hockey Writers - Jean Beliveau: A Class Act
Eyes on The Prize - Elegance and Class: Stories from Jean Beliveau's 500th goal night