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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Guy Lafleur, a dynamic star of the Montreal Canadiens, passed away at the age of seventy.

Guy Lafleur‘, the energetic, freewheeling right wing who guided the historic Montreal Canadiens to five Stanley Cup championship titles in the 1970s, including four in a row, passed away on Friday in a suburb of Montreal.

The National Hockey League said that the reason of Lafleur’s death was cancer and that he passed away at a palliative care facility. After years of smoking cigarettes, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had quadruple bypass surgery in January of 2019.

Known to Montreal hockey fans as “the Flower,” Lafleur was an ice magician who could deftly split defences and whose offensive rushes caused the city’s fans to chant, “Guy! Guy! Guy!”

As a result of his six-year string of at least 50 goals and 100 points, he became the first player in NHL history to accomplish both feats in the same season. His 136 points (56 goals and 80 assists) during the 1976-77 season set a new record.

According to former New York Rangers goaltender John Davidson, “he liked to shoot high on the glove side, and it was a really dangerous shot, plain terrifying.” Davidson spoke to the Daily News via phone interview on Friday. You’d feel the crowd roar, and the roar would become louder and louder, and the crowd would stand, regardless of whether he scored or not.”

Over the course of 17 seasons, Lafleur scored 560 goals and added 793 assists, 14 of which were spent with the Montreal Canadiens, one with the New York Rangers, and two with the Quebec Nordiques. In the postseason, he scored 58 more goals and added 76 more assists.

He was awarded the Art Ross Trophy three times for being the league’s best scorer, as well as the Hart Memorial Trophy twice for being the league’s most valuable player. In 1988, he was inducted into the National Hockey Hall of Fame.

Trudeau stated on Twitter that Lafleur “was unlike anybody else on the ice,” adding that “His speed, skill, and scoring were hard to believe.” Lafleur’s speed, skill, and scoring were hard to believe.

The loss of Lafleur comes only a week after the passing of another legendary goaltender, Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders.

His parents, Rejean and Pierette Lafleur, welcomed him into the world on September 20, 1951, in Thurso, Quebec, where he grew up.

A standout performer in top-tier junior hockey, scoring 103 and 130 goals with the Quebec Ramparts during the 1969-70 and 1970-71 seasons, respectively, the Canadiens picked him with the first overall choice in the National Hockey League amateur draught, and he went on to play four seasons in the NHL. Lafleur said that if the Canadiens had not selected him, he would have signed with the Quebec Nordiques, who were then a member of the rival World Hockey League.

Béliveau had retired before Lafleur joined a Montreal club that had won the Stanley Cup the season before but had recruited Scotty Bowman as a new coach after losing the previous season’s Stanley Cup champions. When Lafleur originally arrived in the NHL, he had a sluggish start, scoring just 29, 28 and 21 goals in his first three seasons until breaking out with 53 goals in the 1974-75 season.

With his blond hair flowing in the days when players were required to wear helmets, Lafleur rose to prominence as a star for a historic Montreal organisation, and he was an innovator with a stick in his hands.

When it came to scoring seasons, Lafleur’s most explosive years were from 1974-75 to 1979-80, which coincided nearly exactly with the four consecutive seasons in which the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup, from 1976 to 1979.

As part of an attempt to stop Lafleur from scoring in the Stanley Cup finals in 1978, the Boston Bruins’ head coach, Don Cherry, instructed his players to elevate their sticks against him. According to an article on the The Hockey Writers website, they slashed him, causing him to play with his head bandaged for the remainder of the game. Despite this, Lafleur scored three goals and added two assists, and the Canadiens won their sixth straight game.

After scoring 125 points in the 1979-80 season, Lafleur’s scoring output started to dwindle significantly. Having played just 19 games in the 1984-85 season, he announced his retirement after scoring only two goals and three assists in total. He did not get along with the coach, Jacques Lemaire, who often benched him, or with the general manager, Serge Savard, with whom he was having problems.

The remainder of that season, as well as the next three, saw Lafleur remain retired. However, just weeks after being inducted into the Hall of Fame in September 1988, he signed with the Rangers and began playing again. During that time, he admitted to The New York Times that his last days with the Canadiens had been “the most difficult period of my life.”

When he finished his one-season stint in New York, he signed with the Nordiques, a team that had entered the National Hockey League in 1979.

He spent two seasons with the Nordiques, where he had mixed success, before deciding to call it quits. Later in his career, he returned to the Canadiens as a member of the team’s ambassador programme.

Besides his wife, Lise, his mother, his two sons, Martin and Mark, four sisters, and a granddaughter, he is survived by his family.

Lafleur, Béliveau, Howie Morenz, and Maurice (Rocket) Richard are among the great Canadiens immortalised in bronze sculptures at the Bell Centre, the team’s home arena, where they were inaugurated in 2008.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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