Guy Lafleur, the Montreal Canadiens’ Dynamic Star, Passed Away at the Age of 70?
As the first player to score at least 50 goals and 100 points in six consecutive seasons, he helped guide the team to five Stanley Cup wins.
In the 1970s, the Montreal Canadiens won five Stanley Cups, including four straight, thanks to the lively, freewheeling right wing Guy Lafleur, who died on Friday. He had reached the age of seventy when I met him.
According to the National Hockey League, Lafleur died of cancer in a palliative care facility. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019 and underwent quadruple bypass surgery as a result.
Montrealers chanted, “Guy! Guy! Guy! Guy!” whenever Lafleur made an attacking play, a magician on the ice known as “the Flower.”
At 56 goals and 80 assists in 1976-77, he became the first player to score at least 50 goals and 100 points in six consecutive seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL).
“He loved to shoot high on the glove side, and it was a dangerous shot, downright scary,” John Davidson, a former goalie for the New York Rangers, said in a phone interview on Friday. “When he got the puck at the blue line at the old Montreal Forum and headed up the ice, you could feel the rush. You’d feel the people make noise, and that noise would get louder and louder, and the people would stand, 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 anyone 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.
Lafleur’s death comes less than a week after another legendary scorer, Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders, passed away.
Guy Damien Lafleur was born in Thurso, Quebec, on Sept. 20, 1951, to Rejean and Pierette Lafleur. As a child, he was so enamoured with hockey that he would sneak into a local rink on weekday mornings and early Sunday mornings to gain ice time when no one else was there, according to his Hockey Hall of Fame biography.
“When I was a child, all I saw on television were the Canadiens, and all I wanted to be was Béliveau,” he explained to the Hall, referring to the Canadiens’ long-time star Jean Béliveau. He dreamed of being drafted by the Canadiens.
He was a standout in top-tier junior hockey, scoring 103 and 130 goals with the Quebec Ramparts in 1969-70 and 1970-71, respectively, and the Canadiens selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the National Hockey League amateur draught. Lafleur stated that if they had not picked him, he would have signed with the Nordiques, a rival World Hockey Association team at the time.
Lafleur joined a Montreal team that had won the Stanley Cup the previous season but had lost Béliveau to retirement and signed Scotty Bowman as a new coach. Lafleur began his career slowly, collecting 29 goals in his first three seasons before breaking out with 53 in 1974-75.
Lafleur became a star for a renowned Montreal organisation, an inventor with a stick in his hands, with his blond hair flowing in an era before players were required to wear helmets.
“He’s not the easiest player to play with because he’s all over the ice,” his teammate Steve Shutt once said. “He doesn’t know what he’s going to do, so how can I know?”
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. During the 1976 playoffs, he was the target of an alleged kidnapping threat and was therefore guarded by security.
As part of an effort 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 began to dwindle significantly. Having played only 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 routinely benched him, or with the general manager, Serge Savard, with whom he was having problems.
The rest of that season, as well as the following 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 final days with the Canadiens had been “the most difficult period of my life.”
“I had a decision between ulcers and retirement at the age of 33,” he explained.
When he finished his one-season stint in New York, he signed with the Nordiques, a team that had joined the National Hockey League in 1979.
Upon announcing his move to the Nordiques, Lafleur told reporters, “It’s been a lovely year in exile in New York.” “However, I’d like to conclude my professional career in Quebec, where it all began.”
He played two years with the Nordiques before retiring for good. In the future, he came back to the Canadiens as a team ambassador.
Besides his wife and his mother, he leaves behind his sons, Martin and Mark, as well as his four sisters, and a granddaughter, when he died.
This is what happened in 2008. Four bronze statues of great Canadiens were put up at the Bell Center, the team’s home. They were Lafleur, Béliveau, Howie Morenz and Maurice “Rocket” Richard.
When Lafleur said this with a smile, “I’d rather have a statue than not play at all.”