Monday, May 28, 2018

Jean Béliveau, ‘Le Gros Bill,’ My Hockey Hero

Photo of the Day

Joseph Jean Arthur Béliveau [born in 1931 in Trois-Rivières, Quebec–died in  2014 in Longueuil, Quebec] is shown in this 1963 photo during the height of his professional hockey playing days (1950–1971), sporting the “C” on his home game sweater, the designation of captain of Les Canadiens, which Béliveau proudly led for 10 years (1961–1971). Béliveau, who played centre, was 6' 3"; 205 lb., then considered tall for a player. He was known for his graceful skating, meticulous stickhandling and a well-aimed wrist shot. Known also as “Le Gros Bill” (named after a Québecois folk song, he was not only a hockey legend, he was my first sports hero. He was for many boys of my generation growing up in Montreal in the 1960s and the first two years of the ’70s, who followed and rooted for the Montreal Canadiens, “the Habs,” “Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge.” I got to follow Béliveau later in his career (he playing between 1950 and 1971), and remember vividly when he scored his 500th goal (February 11th, 1971), a few of us watching the game at a friend’s house across the road. I met Béliveau as a hockey player a couple of times in my life; the first as a young boy asking for his autograph outside the old Montreal Forum (1924–1996) on Ste-Catherine W and Atwater, and he always was gracious. Always, as so many have said. This is how I remember him: a tall dignified athelete, but always a gentleman. Some might say, hockey is only a sport, and while this is true, and now it is hyped-up entertainment (reflecting, perhaps, the head-office move to New York from Montreal in 1989), it was different back then. Very different. We all need heroes, and I was fortunate to have one as a young boy. And a decent human being, as well, the likes of which are rarely seen in sports today. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Library and Archives Canada; Louis Jacques for Weekend Magazine, December 28, 1963.

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