It is with a heavy heart that Hockey Canada acknowledges the passing of Jean Béliveau, who died Tuesday night in Montreal at the age of 83.
Béliveau was one of the first five Distinguished Honourees of the Order of Hockey in Canada in 2012, and was the honorary captain of Canada’s gold medal-winning Men’s Olympic Team at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C.
“Jean Béliveau embodied all that is right in a Canadian athlete, and with his passing we are reminded with great pride how he represented both hockey and Canada,” said Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada. “We have lost one of the hockey’s greatest ambassadors, and the game has lost a true gentleman. We send our condolences to the Béliveau family at this difficult time.”
A Trois-Rivières, Que., native, Béliveau spent parts of 20 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens from 1950-71, cementing his place as not only one of the greatest Canadiens ever, but as one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.
Béliveau averaged more than a point a game during his career, scoring 507 goals and adding 712 assists for 1,219 points in 1,125 games. When he retired after the 1970-71 season, Béliveau ranked fourth all-time in goals scored, and was second in all-time NHL scoring, behind only Gordie Howe.
He was a two-time winner of the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 1955-56 and 1963-64, won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer in 1955-56, and was the very first recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1965.
He also played in 14 NHL All-Star Games, was named six times to the NHL First All-Star Team (1954-55, 1955-56, 1956-57, 1958-59, 1959-60, 1960-61) and four times to the NHL Second All-Star Team (1957-58, 1963-64, 1965-66, 1968-69).
Perhaps most impressively, Béliveau helped the Canadiens to 10 Stanley Cup championships (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1971) second-most of any player, and was a member of seven more title-winning teams as an executive.
A legend in Montreal, Béliveau captained the Canadiens for his final 10 seasons (tied with Saku Koivu for the most seasons wearing the ‘C’), and had his No. 4 retired by the team at the start of the 1971-72 season, just months after announcing the end of his playing career.
Béliveau had the mandatory three-year waiting period for the Hockey Hall of Fame waived, and was inducted as part of the Class of 1972.
To recognize his contributions to the game, and to the country, Béliveau was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1998, and a Knight of the National Order of Quebec in 1988 (promoted to Officer in 2006, and Grand Officer in 2010).