Guy Lafleur is one of the most renowned Montreal Canadiens players. His name belongs with other Habs legends, such as Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard, as being named a true legend. They will go down in history as the holy trinity of Canadiens legends, not only because of what they did on the ice but also for how they captivated a fanbase. With the passing of Lafleur this past week, Canadiens fans lost one of their heroes and an ambassador to not just the Habs, but hockey as well.
A Legend was Born
Lafleur was drafted in 1971 after Canadiens’ general manager Sam Pollock traded the Habs’ first-round pick in 1970 along with Ernie Hicks to the California Golden Seals for their first-round pick in 1971. The Seals finished last, and the Canadiens had the 1st overall pick, but Lafleur wasn’t a shoo-in for the top choice. Another French Canadian named Marcel Dionne also tore the junior leagues apart with his scoring ability. Pollock chose Lafleur, and the rest is history.
Lafleur became one of the NHL’s most dominant players, scoring 50 goals and 100 points in six straight seasons. He helped the Canadiens win five Stanley Cups and became a Quebec hero to young francophone hockey players carrying the tradition of great francophone players like Beliveau and Richard before him. “Le Démond Blond,” or “The Flower,” as he was called, will be greatly missed by millions of fans worldwide.
Lafleur Wasn’t a Hab When I First Watched Him Play
Lafleur was in his third season with the Canadiens when I was born, and you can do the math for how old I am. I didn’t get into watching hockey until around 1986 when the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup on the back of another future Habs legend Patrick Roy. The 1985-86 season was the year after Lefleur decided to retire – or so we thought. I never got to see The Flower play until the 1988-89 season when he returned from retirement and signed with the New York Rangers. I fondly remember the ovation he got when he returned to the Montreal Forum, and I don’t think I ever saw Habs fans give that big of an ovation for a player on the opposing team. Lafleur scored two goals in that game, and the roof of the Forum almost came off when the fans cheered both goals; yes, you heard that right: the fans in Montreal cheered for a Ranger when he scored. The Canadiens won the game, but it showed what a lasting impression Lafleur had on the fans in Montreal.
Lafleur returned to Quebec the following season but not with the Canadiens. He became a member of the Quebec Nordiques, and I watched him more on television (TV); I could see what everyone saw in him – the speed, the hockey sense and the aura that surrounded him. Not only did the fans enjoy watching him play, but his teammates also seemed to be in awe of La Demon Blonde. In his first season with the Nordiques, he was almost a point-per-game player with 34 points in 39 games, but you could see time was catching up; he played one more season and then retired for good, but I was glad I got to see a player that many Habs fans adored and treated like a king. I understood why he was so well-loved by the fans.
Lafleur Brought Me Closer to My Grandfather
Since I didn’t have any history watching Lafleur as a Canadien, how can I say what he means to me? Well, it’s not really about me, but more about how I became a Habs fan. My grandfather, or the man I knew as my grandfather because mine was killed in World War II, was a huge Montreal fan. He grew up watching Richards, Beliveau, and Lafleur; he would tell me all the stories of how he sat by the radio listening to the great Danny Gallivan announce the game and how excited he got when the Habs scored or won. Lafleur was the star when I was a kid, and that’s who he told me stories about the most because it was fresh in his mind, and Lefleur was so polarizing.
My grandfather owned a farm in the small town of Canso, Nova Scotia, and it wasn’t a big farm, just had a few cows that he named after his grandchildren. If I was there in the winter, every Saturday night, the NHL was on the TV; in those days, it mainly was Canadiens games, and he would sit in his chair, and I can remember him yelling at the TV or cheering or complaining about the referees and how dumb they are – not much has changed I guess. During the intermission, he used to tell me about older games and what Lafleur did against this team or that team; at the time, I was more interested in playing with Star Wars figures or G.I Joe action figures, but I still listened. Looking back now, I wish I had heard more and learned more about the Canadiens, but I now have memories of my grandfather that I will have forever, thanks to The Flower.
Listening to these stories and seeing the excitement in his eyes when telling them led me to become a Canadiens fan. There were different heroes when I became a fan; mine was Roy, but I did get the see the last few years of Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson and got to enjoy the careers of Mats Naslund, Guy Carbonneau, Chris Chelios, and more recently Saku Koivu, Jose Theodore and Carey Price.
That’s what Lafleur meant to me; he provided memories of my grandfather that I will cherish forever, and the stories of The Flower helped me become the Habs fan I am today.
The Montreal Canadiens will have a memorial for Lafleur, and fans can show their respects at the Bell Center on May 1st and 2nd, with a National funeral on May 3rd.
Trege Wilson has been a freelance content writer for the past four years and with the THW for the past year. He is the co-host of the popular Montreal Canadiens podcast Habs Unfiltered on IHeartRadio.com.Trege is very passionate about all things Canadiens and loves to provide his readers with great quality news, rumours and opinions on the Montreal Canadiens. Trege has also been featured on JblamSports and JDFSports Podcasts; for interviews and guest appearances, you can contact him at any of his social media accounts listed under his photo in such articles as this one.