MONTREAL - The golden years have not been kind to the legendary Jean Béliveau, who is undergoing “active investigation and treatments” at the Montreal General Hospital after suffering a stroke on Monday night.
Béliveau has been struck with an alarming number of health issues since retiring as a player following the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup victory in 1970-71.
There were cardiac problems in the mid-1990s. And in 2000, all of us were saddened to learn he would start radiation treatments for a malignant tumour doctors had discovered in his neck. This man, loved and admired by so many, who won so many battles on the ice in his 18-season career, took on his biggest one with greater resolve and courage than any game he ever played.
“I rely totally on the expertise of my doctors,” he wrote in a statement. “I intend to follow their instructions and recommendations to the letter. I feel good and I fully intend on winning this next battle.”
He won it, against all odds. He handled the radiation, although for a long while, he lost his sense of taste. He carried a bottle of spring water with him all day to ease the terrible discomfort of dry mouth, a condition that still exists. However, all through it he was still the smiling giant of a man, available to people of all ages and languages and colours.
His ability to charm others has never left him through good and bad times, because he is, after all, Jean Béliveau.
In June of last year, he underwent a preventive surgical procedure to repair abdominal aneurysms and required several months to recover.
Last week, he entered hospital with a severe nosebleed that finally was corrected after three days of treatment. Now this.
“He’s been going through a lot,” former teammate Dickie Moore was saying on Tuesday.
“It’s so sad. After all of the things he’s done over the years, after all of the charity affairs he’s attended ... the money he’s raised for kids, Jean should be enjoying life,” Moore said of Béliveau, who celebrated his 80th birthday last August.
Béliveau and Moore were fierce rivals in junior hockey, but have been the closest of friends since their Canadiens days.
“When you talk about the great players, the superstars who’ve played for the Canadiens,” Moore said, “he’s right up there with the very best. As an individual, he’s always been in a class by himself. As an individual, on and off the ice, nobody comes close.”
Everyone who was there will never forget the night Béliveau was the guest of honour at a Bell Centre black-tie affair where $1 million was raised for six institutions: The Montreal Children’s Hospital, Ste. Justine Hospital, the Society for Handicapped Children, the Shriners and to children’s hospitals in Quebec and Sherbrooke.
All of it for the kids.
Numbers and individual achievements don’t begin to describe what Béliveau has meant to the Canadiens organization, to people everywhere. Eighteen seasons with the Canadiens, his last 10 as captain; 10 Stanley Cups; two Hart trophies, one Conn Smythe; 507 goals and 712 assists in 1,125 games; 176 points in 162 playoff games. Stunning numbers, but they pale in comparison alongside the love and respect other players, old and new, and the people … his people … have for him and he for them.
“You know, when people are good, it makes me feel good to give back,” he would tell you. “People always have been good to me.”
This good man has been special in so many ways. Everything that is Béliveau comes from within. He truly cares about people, and that care always has been returned to him by people in all walks of life.
The same applies to the players he faced during his career. Opponents always played hard against him, but their respect for him and he for them was always there – and remains so to this day.
The same applies for hockey people at every level. Who but Béliveau could have been named captain of Team Canada at the Vancouver Olympics. A health issue prevented him from attending the Games, but eventually he was presented with the same ring players received for winning the gold at a solid-out charity dinner in Montreal.
Béliveau, the player, was more than a captain: he was a father figure in many ways. If a player had a problem on the ice, Béliveau was only a stick-length away. If there were personal problems that needed attention, he was available. He never forced himself on anyone, but everyone knew he was there.
He was, in every way, a one-of-a-kind player, matched only by his grace and quality as human being.
Pray for him..............As we mentioned earlier ,get well Mr Beliveau, you are a Class Act............. Cheers ! HF&RV - Les