John Kenney’s photo of Canadiens legend Jean Béliveau at the then-Molson Centre was published in the Montreal Gazette on Nov. 13, 1999. With Béliveau are his wife, Élise, and 13-year-old granddaughter Magalie. In the background are photos of other historic Habs greats.
Béliveau, then 68, was “one of the most luminous stars to pull on the jersey of hockey’s most fabled franchise,” we wrote in the accompanying feature article, though Le Gros Bill hardly needed any introduction to our readers. Still, we related some of his stats: 586 career goals (regular season and playoffs), twice league MVP, winner of the inaugural Conn Smythe Trophy in 1965 for playoff MVP.
The photo had been taken two days earlier, when Béliveau had been in attendance as the Habs snapped a nine-game winless streak by beating the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. That year’s team was a far cry from those that Béliveau had played on from 1953 to 1971, a period that saw the Habs win 10 Stanley Cups. He won a further seven during his subsequent 22 years in the front office.
Everybody was asking Béliveau what was wrong with the Habs, we reported, but gentleman that he was, he diplomatically deflected the question. (As it turned out, things did not get much better that 1999-2000 season. The Canadiens failed to make the playoffs.)
“Today, as graceful and commanding a presence in a finely tailored jacket as he was in the bleu-blanc-rouge, stick-handling down centre ice, he is at once a delightful and painful reminder of the days in Montreal when Lord Stanley’s sterling chalice was more than just a rumour,” we wrote.
Béliveau died in 2014 at age 83. The Canadiens last won the Stanley Cup in 1993.
John Kenney /