It’s been 37 years since Guy Lafleur last played for the Montreal Canadiens, but it was his name that fans chanted before the team took to the ice Sunday.
For 10 minutes, Habs fans gave Lafleur, who died Friday at age 70, a standing ovation, as cheers of “Guy, Guy, Guy!” mixed with chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole!” and “Go Habs Go!”
Twice, the game’s announcer began to say something, only to let fans keep cheering. Finally, he asked the fans to be quiet for a moment of silence in honour of Lafleur.
It was a mixture of sombre and celebration as the Canadiens marked the passing of one of their greats before the game against the Boston Bruins.
WATCH l Canadiens honour Lafleur’s legacy in ceremony:
Images of Lafleur’s youth were projected on the ice, before videos of his time with the Habs were shown on the arena’s screen to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
While there was video of Lafleur’s greatest goals, with a crucial goal against Boston — the team the Habs faced Sunday — in a Stanley Cup final drawing the biggest cheer.
But there were also images of “The Flower” lifting up the Stanley Cup — he won five with Montreal — and participating in the victory parades that were a regular event in Montreal during his time with the team.
On the boards, the usual ads were replaced by a simple tribute to Lafleur: his name, his number, his signature and the years of life — 1951 to 2022.
Erik Haula scored twice as the Bruins escaped with a 5-3 win over the Canadiens in Sunday night’s game.
Patrice Bergeron also picked up two goals, including the empty-netter, and one assist. Charlie McAvoy added the eventual game winner. Jeremy Swayman made 23 saves.
“It was an emotional night in Guy’s honour. We felt that Guy was with us in the third,” said Canadiens interim coach Martin St. Louis. “Like I told my players, you play so many games in the league, you might remember a few regular season games but you will remember that one.”
“On a night like this, if [the players] didn’t know what the Canadiens are to the province of Quebec I think they know now tonight.”
WATCH l Canadiens fall to Bruins on emotional night in Montreal:
Patrice Bergeron broke the ice for Boston (49-25-5) by tapping in a loose puck in an open net. The centreman passed Raymond Bourque as the fourth all-time goal scorer in Bruins history.
Following the final buzzer, Brendan Gallagher led his teammates back onto the ice to salute Lafleur’s retired No. 10.
“That’s a big show of respect, I’m happy that [Gallagher] did that. Guy deserves that respect,” St. Louis said. “It’s important to give this to the next generation of players. The legacy is important.”
Former teammates remember Habs great
Yvan Cournoyer, who played with Lafleur between 1971 and 1979, told reporters he knew there was something special about Lafleur from the moment he joined the Habs.
“I won five Stanley Cups before he arrived, I said, I tell you there’s something with this guy, I’m gonna win more Stanley Cups and I was right,” Cournoyer said, a black button with Guy’s No. 10 on his lapel.
Cournoyer said that while anyone could see how many goals Lafleur scored, it was his friend he would remember.
“You don’t forget a guy like Guy, I’m talking about the man,” Cournoyer said, describing Lafleur as someone who deserved his popularity. “He loves everybody, everybody loves him.”
Un rassemblement pour Guy.<br><br>Gathering for Guy. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/GuyGuyGuy?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#GuyGuyGuy</a> <a href=”https://t.co/kCyWEGthy0″>pic.twitter.com/kCyWEGthy0</a>
Chris Nilan, who played with Montreal between 1980 and 1988, said Lafleur helped him feel like he belonged on the team when he first joined, skating with him before his first practice with the team.
“The two of us skated together on the ice, just me and Guy, it was unbelievable. We passed pucks, he gave me some tips on shooting, I never quite got the shot that Guy had, but he tried. I’ll never forget that day, it was so special for me,” he said.
“He always treated me with respect, never less than. Some stars, they put themselves on another level, kind of on a pedestal, not Guy, he never looked down on me,” Nilan said. “Just an awesome guy.”
Before the ceremony, fans gathered in front of statue of Lafleur outside the arena.
Merci d’être là pour Guy. ❤️<br><br>Thank you for being there for Guy.<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/GuyGuyGuy?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#GuyGuyGuy</a> <a href=”https://t.co/fqaaSK45yQ”>pic.twitter.com/fqaaSK45yQ</a>
Fan Danielle Lessard, who laid a bouquet of flowers in front of the statue, said Lafleur remained her favourite player long after he stopped playing.
As a child, she said she wrote to Lafleur and he sent back a card and autograph.
For her it was the “the speed, the elegance,” of his play that she loved.
“You could count on him. You knew he would score that goal.”
A national funeral for Lafleur is scheduled for May 3, Quebec’s premier said earlier on Sunday.
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