Quebec mourns number 10. Legendary hockey player Guy Lafleur has died at the age of 70 from lung cancer.
• Read also: 10 defining moments in Guy Lafleur’s career
• Read also: Death of Guy Lafleur: rain of tributes to the announcement of the death of the Blond Demon
After Maurice Richard and Jean Béliveau, the Montreal Canadiens lose another of those rare players who, at the mere mention of a number, is immediately recognized. Because Lafleur does indeed belong to this select group.
The native of Thurso leaves to mourn his family, his friends, but also countless hockey fans.
If he leaves too soon, Lafleur will have at least experienced a certain farewell tour over the past year, a period when, despite the illness, he was once again generous to his supporters across Quebec.
On October 28, the man nicknamed the Blond Demon was also honored in Quebec City, when the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League retired forever his famous number 4 that he had previously worn with the Remparts.
- Listen to Rodger Brulotte pay tribute to Guy Lafleur at the microphone of Richard Martineau on QUB radio:
Lafleur had seen the cancer recur in early October 2020, nearly a year after undergoing surgery in which the upper lobe of one of his lungs was removed and lymph nodes were removed. Shortly before this operation, in September 2019, Lafleur had also undergone a quadruple coronary bypass.
Born on September 20, 1951, Lafleur wasted no time in making a name for himself in the junior ranks at the end of the 1960s. A great admirer of Béliveau, one of the pillars of the Canadiens, the Blond Demon joined the As Quebec in 1967. Two years later, he collected 110 points in just 49 games, before doing it again with an impressive total of 170 points, including 103 goals, in 56 games with the Remparts. He also led them to the conquest of the Memorial Cup on May 3, 1971. In his last campaign in the Old Capital, in 1970-1971, he set QMJHL records with 130 goals and 209 points, marks that will be beaten by Mario Lemieux in 1983-1984. During his stay in the junior ranks, he twice won the Jean-Rougeau trophy, awarded to the player of the best team in the regular season.
Lafleur saw his wish come true in the 1971 NHL Entry Draft, when he was selected by the Canadiens first overall. After his first three seasons, during which he scored 29, 28 and 21 goals respectively, the right winger exploded. During the next six campaigns, he amassed at least 50 goals and 100 points, helping his team win four consecutive Stanley Cups in the late 1970s. In 1976-77, he scored 136 points, before adding 132 the following year, netting his only career 60-goal campaign. In terms of individual honors, he won three Art-Ross trophies, two Hart trophies, two Lester B. Pearson trophies and two Conn-Smythe trophies. He is the symbol of the Canadian dynasty of the time.
He is remembered for his powerful slap shots, in particular. To this effect, one of his most famous goals is the one achieved on May 10, 1979, during the seventh game of the semi-final against the Boston Bruins, at the old Forum in Montreal. With the score 4-3 in favor of the visitors, Lafleur takes advantage of a power play, the result of a penalty awarded to the Bruins for having too many players on the ice, to beat goalkeeper Gerry Cheevers with a cannonball with a few minutes to go in the third period. Montreal finally won the game in overtime thanks to a goal by Yvon Lambert and obtained its fourth Stanley Cup in a row at the end of the following series, against the New York Rangers.
Photo Archives, Le Journal de Montreal
Guy Lafleur in 1975
After a performance of 50 goals and 125 points in 1979-1980, Lafleur’s performance began to decline. He must be satisfied with four modest campaigns where he does not exceed 84 points. In 1984-1985, he had a difficult start to the season with two goals in 19 games. On November 26, 1984, dissatisfied with the playing time given to him by head coach Jacques Lemaire, the Blond Demon announced his first retirement from hockey. His departure is made in an unpleasant atmosphere, since the main interested party is at loggerheads with the senior leaders of the Habs organization, including President Ronald Corey.
Marc Tardif and Guy Lafleur in 1982
However, Lafleur returned to the game shortly after his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988. It was with the Rangers and their head coach, Michel Bergeron, that he decided to highlight his presence. But at 37, his numbers are only a shadow of those he has already achieved. In his only campaign in the American metropolis, he amassed 18 goals and 27 assists. The highlight of his year remains his first game at the Forum in his new uniform, on February 4, 1989. The crowd present that evening cheers his two goals scored at the expense of goaltender Patrick Roy. Despite a 7-5 loss, Lafleur steals the show by receiving a very long and warm ovation.
The legendary hockey player played with the Quebec Nordiques during his last two seasons in the NHL. He manages to sparkle the red light 12 times per campaign, but we especially remember the two games that put an end to his illustrious passage among the professionals. Once again, he gets all the attention during a clash against the Habs at the Forum. On March 30, 1991, he marked his 560and and ultimate career goal, as the spectators applauded him wildly for six minutes. The next day, he made his final outing at the Coliseum, still facing the Canadian. He is the subject of a party in the middle of the ice and people give him a standing ovation for about twelve minutes.
- Listen to Richard Martineau’s interview with Bernard Brisset, former vice-president of communications and marketing services for the Montreal CanadiensI and former sports journalist on QUB radio:
A busy post-career
Lafleur is multi-talented and remains intimately connected to the hockey world after his time in the NHL. He remained with the Nordiques as director of corporate and community affairs for three years. He buried the hatchet with the Habs organization, even becoming one of the team’s ambassadors to the community. In addition to owning the former Bleu-Blanc-Rouge restaurant near Place Rosemère from 2008 to 2012, the Blond Demon added another string to his bow by obtaining a helicopter pilot’s license.
All these occupations do not prevent him from occasionally practicing the sport that made him famous. He participated in a few tours of the Old Canadians all over the Belle Province, being always available for his supporters wherever he went.