It was an evening fit for a legend at the Mount Stephen Club in Montreal on December 14 as alumni of Team Canada and the Montreal Canadiens came together for a fundraising dinner to honour one of the game’s all-time greats – Hockey Hall of Famer Jean Béliveau.
Béliveau has been a part of the fabric of Canada’s game for more than half a century, winning a remarkable 17 Stanley Cup championships with the Canadiens – 10 as a player during an 18-year playing career, and seven more as an executive.
The dinner, which raised money for Hockey Canada Foundation initiatives in support of grassroots hockey, as well as the Jean Béliveau Foundation in its support of the Quebec Society for Disabled Children, was highlighted by the presentation of Béliveau’s Olympic ring by Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson.
Béliveau was named honorary captain of Canada’s 2010 Men’s Olympic Team during the Hockey Canada Foundation gala and golf tournament in Montreal in June 2009, but health problems kept him from being in Vancouver to be a part of the excitement.
“I had promised myself that I would spend the entire ten days with the players,” Béliveau told RDS prior to the dinner. “I would have loved to go, but my condition was too serious.”
Instead of being part of the celebration of two Canadian hockey Olympic gold medals, Béliveau settled for having his Olympic moment in front of friends and peers that included Réjean Houle, Vincent Damphousse, Stéphane Richer, Serge Savard, Yvan Cournoyer, Guy Lafleur, Henri Richard, Stan Mikita and Dick Irvin.
Like tens of millions of his countrymen, Béliveau watched on television as Sidney Crosby capped off a successful Olympic Winter Games with his thrilling overtime goal against the United States, giving Canada 3-2 a win and the gold medal.
“When Sidney scored, I was extremely happy for him and for Canada,” Béliveau said. “These are historic goals that enable an entire population as well as the players to emerge victorious from the competition.”
A 10-time Stanley Cup champion as a player, Béliveau retired in 1971, one year before the historic Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union, which marked the first time professionals had the chance to play for their country.
Special thanks to Hockey Canada Foundation board members Barry Lorenzetti and Dan O’Neill, who assisted greatly in the organization of the event.