Lafleur’s funeral, farewell to the owner of Canadians

Family, friends, former teammates, opponents and countless fans have struggled with the loss of the Canadians icon, who passed away at the age of 70 on April 22, 31 months after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Now, over the course of three days, thousands are preparing to bid an emotional farewell to one of the greatest players in NHL history, as they did in 2014 with the legendary Jean Bellevue And in the year 2000 for the immortal Morris “Rocket” Richard.

“During my tenure as owner of the Canadiens (since 2009), there have been quite a few people who have left us,” Molson told NHL.com on Wednesday. “But the two great ones are Jean Bellevue and Guy Lafleur. Greatness and importance are very similar, but very different feeling.”

The Bill Jay LaFleur Center sign was lit on April 24, two days after his death. At the top of this story: Canadian owner Jeff Molson with LaFleur in support of the Canadian Armed Forces circa 2015. Molson displayed this photo in his Bell Center office.

The Bell Center will be open on Sunday and Monday for mourners to offer their last regards to LaFleur and his family. Tens of thousands expected to march along the gently lit pitch to the casket of a five-time Stanley Cup Champion, a member of the newest Canadian dynasty of the late 1970s and arguably the most exciting player of his generation.

There they can expect to meet Lafleur’s wife, Liz, sons Martin and Mark, and other members of his family.

There will be 12 and a half hours of public visitation – from 12 noon to 8 pm ET on Sunday, and 10:30 am to 3 pm on Monday – before the national funeral at Lafleur on Tuesday a short distance away in Mary, Queen of world cathedral.

Organized by the Government of Quebec and Canadians, the 11am TV service will be broadcast live in Canada in both English and French, and is broadcast globally. Political and business leaders and sports personalities will arrive at the church, as throngs of fans gather on the steps across the street from the Sun Life Building, the NHL’s first official residence, and near the former Windsor Hotel, where the league was born in 1917.

Visiting the Bell Center of Montreal Canadiens the Great Jean Bellevue on December 7, 2014.

In December 2014, a two-day visit to the Bell Center preceded the funeral of Bellevue, the Canadians’ illustrious captain and 10-time Stanley Cup champion who remains in some respects the conscience of the only NHL team he played for. Bellevue’s funeral was also celebrated at Mary, Queen of the World, after the 83-year-old died after a long illness.

In May 2000, days after his death at the age of 78 from abdominal cancer, Richard lay at the Bell Center for a two-day visit, then the striker’s dramatic funeral was held at the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Old Montreal.

Howie Morens, the first great star of Canadians, celebrated with a wake and funeral in the crowded Forum of Montreal on March 11, 1937; It came three days after the 34-year-old striker died of a coronary artery blockage, having broken his leg on the ice at the Montreal Forum five weeks ago.

Morenz, Richard, Beliveau, and Lafleur are the Canadian cornerstones immortalized in a plaza outside the Bell Center, and they celebrate their jobs with four frozen statues in flight skating on massive granite bases.

The Bill Jay LaFleur Center statue on April 24, two days after his death, and flowers left by fans.

Jeff Molson was born the year prior to LaFleur’s No. 1 pick in the 1971 NHL Draft, chosen by the Canadians in a hotel ballroom several blocks away from where the Bell Center would open in 1996. He grew to be a huge fan of Brilliant Forward, and upon the Canadians’ purchase in 2009 From George N Gillette Jr., he signed a 10-year contract for his youth idol, later extended, as the team’s ambassador, a role that LaFleur embraced until his last days.

More than seven years ago, Molson presided over the heartbreaking farewell to Bellevue. Today, he’s fixing his emotions for another farewell.

Five days after Lafleur’s death, the Canadian owner was talking about the legend partially in the present tense, as he did in the days after Beliveau’s death.

said Molson, whose family and business interests have owned a full or partial ownership interest in Canadians for all but seven years since 1957.

Jay LaFleur receives a kiss from his mother Berrett during the Canadian Alumni Farewell Tour in December 2010 in his hometown of Thurso, Quebec.

“Jean Bellevue was the absolute gentleman, someone respected in all the societies he crossed. But mostly he was known as the captain, the gentleman, that everyone looked up to. He started out as a true professional and was the best player in the best teams in the NHL and had no flair Anyone can imitate it.

“That’s what Jay will remember him for – flair, that shine. That was on the ice. The ice was away when I got to know him so much, as I did with Jen. I saw a guy like Jen who was very friendly, but in a different way. The guy was someone who could come in To a room and have a conversation and make jokes and feel like he’s naturally part of the party. People really respected him for that. He was a real person.”

Richard was the flame in the belly of eight championship teams, and Bellevue was the elegant leader who had no hair or misplaced feet. Fans viewed Lafleur as an all-man, hero who speaks from the heart regardless of the reaction or the consequences.

Jay LaFleur with the Canadiens ceremonial torch in the team’s opener 2013-14 home game at Bell Center.

His passion was so much that he was often highly critical of the team that was paying him to be their ambassador.

“A man is most respected for speaking exactly what’s on his mind,” said Molson. “He’s appreciated by people because he talks about his facts all the time. It’s usually not too far away. He just chose to say it exactly as it is. That’s what Guy LaFleur was.”

“While it can be frustrating for an organization to have to read about it or watch it on TV, there is no denying that the man [was] Tell the truth. It’s something Canadians needed to appreciate. When I signed him for an extended contract as an ambassador, it was because of that appreciation for him and for being someone who would perfectly represent us as an organization.

“Compare his way of responding to a question about the team’s performance, for example, with the way Jean Bellevue would respond. They will be very different but both are important. For me, having Guy LaFleur inside our tent as an ambassador was a huge priority, but I never tried to control what he said. Under no circumstances, that’s for sure.”

Emotional Jeff Molson begins his press conference on April 22, hours after Jay LaFleur’s death was announced.

Molson stifled tears in his back at a news conference held hours after LaFleur’s death was announced. Four days before he began visiting the Bell Center, he pondered deeply, considering what Lafleur meant for the team and him.

In early April, less than two weeks before Lafleur moved into palliative care, Molson drove a call to his home in a Montreal suburb with France Margaret Belanger, Groupe CH’s head of sports and entertainment, the jewel in the crown being Canadians, and Rejean Houle, longtime Canadian alumni director. Long who played with Lafleur in four championship teams.

“It was a really fun experience,” Molson said. “You don’t really know what you’re going to see or what it’s going to be like when you get there, to look at Jay and talk to him. I’ve heard he’s been having rough days and days. His on a good day, which was amazing.”

“He was full of energy, still joking, telling stories, not complaining for a second. He was so positive. He was talking about having to change the flag on the flagpole this summer because the wind had torn it apart by the winter. He said his windows needed fixing, and he’s going to move into That too.

“The guy was so upbeat, which made us have a really nice conversation, and some good laughs. And he got up from his bed, which was in his living room at the end, and we said goodbye.”

Jay LaFleur, in his prime, rushes onto the ice of Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.

Nearly four decades after his last game with the Canadians in 1984, Lafleur still leads with points (1,246), assists (728), winning goals (94), and seasons with 40 goals, 50 goals and 100 points (six each). who are they). His dash in the ice forum lifted fans from their seats, and his sense of occasion and gift for scoring the most important goals, is a monument to his skills on the rink.

Molson came to love it all at La Fleur, but so much more.

“Man on the ice’s numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “You can’t forget how faster he was than anyone else, how hard he shot than anyone else and how hard he worked on the ice all the time to win. He was a winner.

“One thing I hope people remember about Jay is that he was dedicated to winning at all times. And that he was dedicated to his community, whether it was representing Canadians, his (CHUM) hospital where he was treated for cancer, the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation and others… he was committed to supporting them in his own way. own, in an honest manner with a full commitment to do so in the best way possible.

“As an ambassador, Guy would empty the room with autographs, selfies, discussions and jokes. He didn’t feel his job done until after the room was empty.”

Jay LaFleur before the 2017 Scotiabank NHL Classic between Canadian Senators and Ottawa with (from left) NHL Commissioner Gary Bateman, singer Brian Adams, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Trudeau’s son, Xavier.

LaFleur often spoke of his love for his fans. Their love for him would never be stronger than during these three days.

“Like Jane, Jay is going to be a national funeral so there are going to be certain protocols that we’re going to follow,” Molson said. “I think you can expect that the structure of a man’s funeral will be similar to Jean’s funeral but the content will be unique to him.”

Molson stood inconsolably outside the Canadian locker room as fans flocked to the Bale Center to give their final salutes to Beliveau. He said that his words that day, which were read to him, apply perfectly to Lafleur now.

“It’s unbelievable how important Jane is to so many people,” Molson said in 2014. “Since his death, and everywhere I look, people are still talking about him. Here we are, five days later and people want to remember Jane and talk about him and they’ll do it all day and all day tomorrow. It’s going to be awesome. And it’s going to be a great funeral too. …

“I have no idea how many people will come. Whatever the number is, it will be awesome. Anyone who comes here will see something special and will remember it for a lifetime.”

Pictures: Montreal Canadiens (Provided by Jeff Molson, Noemi Provencher, Bob Fisher); Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Bereswell; Getty Images Dave Stubbs

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