Guy Lafleur leaves indelible legacy behind, will be remembered forever

Eric Engels shares a special memory of Guy Lafleur and discusses how his legacy has left an impact on generations of Montreal Canadiens fans.

MONTREAL – Guy Lafleur, gone at age 70, never to be forgotten.

Legends never die, and this particular legend will forever be remembered by the people who watched him become one of the most prolific and dynamic point producers in NHL history and the most decorated one in 113 years of Montreal Canadiens hockey. He’ll be remembered by an entire generation of people who never once saw him gain speed down the wing and uncork the world’s most famous slap shot to precede Alex Ovechkin’s.

They can picture Lafleur earning his nickname, “Le Démon Blond,” and tap into memories of their parents telling them about how he’d fly up and down the Forum ice helmetless, with blondish locks flowing behind him, terrorizing his opposition and making the moves and shooting the shots that would raise the hairs on the backs of their necks so many times through the 1970s and '80s.

And they can share his legacy–of being the highest-scoring Canadien of all-time, a five-time Stanley Cup winner, a three-time Art Ross Trophy winner, a two-time Hart Trophy winner, a two-time Lester B. Pearson Award winner, a Conn Smythe Trophy winner, a Lou Marsh Award recipient, a Canada Cup champion, a six-time first-team All-Star, a Hall of Famer and one of 14 players to be immortalized at the Bell Centre, with his No. 10 hanging from the rafters between numbers worn by Maurice and Henri Richard–with generations to come.

Lafleur, also known to English spectators as “The Flower,” began building his legacy as the most touted junior star in Quebec, putting up 130 goals and 209 points in his last season with the Quebec Remparts en route to being drafted first overall in 1971 by the Canadiens. He cemented that legacy by scoring 518 goals and accumulating 1,246 points in just 961 games—and another 57 goals and 133 points in 124 playoff games—with Montreal.

Lafleur had six consecutive seasons of at least 50 goals and 100 points, and won four of his five Cups in consecutive years. He retired from the Canadiens in 1985, made a brief return to the NHL to play a season with the New York Rangers and two with the Quebec Nordiques, and then officially walked away from the game in 1991 having put Thurso, Que., on the map and kept it there.

Lafleur’s passing came just one week after Mike Bossy’s, making it two of the greatest goal scorers in NHL history and two Quebec-born legends taken by cancer.

Lafleur fought his for nearly three years. It came on after quadruple-bypass surgery in September 2019. He had a cancerous tumour removed from his left lung in November of that year, and a year later was diagnosed with cancer in his right lung.

We last saw him deliver congratulations to newly appointed Canadiens vice president of communications Chantal Machabee via video on Jan. 10. The image of him hairless and clearly infirm, which was masked only by his wide smile, is not the lasting one. It won’t be what people think of when his name is spoken.

Lafleur was a god in these parts, enjoying the rarified air reserved only for Richard and Beliveau before him, and images of him in Adonis-like condition will rule this day. The one of him blasting a shot through Gilles Gilbert to tie Game 7 of the 1979 Stanley Cup Final with 2:34 to play in the third period and the Bruins trying to kill off a too-many-men penalty will flash through both memories and (television, computer, tablet and phone) screens from here to eternity.

Lafleur’s words will continue to echo, too. He was often outspoken, offering as much charisma off the ice as he had on it. He famously quipped the 2015-16 Canadiens, who shot out to a 9-0-0 start to the season before crashing and missing the playoffs, were a team made up of four fourth lines.

Whether or not people agreed, they listened.

They rose to their feet every time Lafleur appeared at the Bell Centre in his ambassadorial role. They fawned over him everywhere he went and relished the opportunity to be in the presence of his greatness. No matter their age, they were captivated by his rockstar aura.

Now they mourn Lafleur. As does the entire hockey world and, of course, the Canadiens.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Guy Lafleur,” said Canadiens owner, president and CEO Geoff Molson in a statement released on the team’s website. “All members of the Canadiens organization are devastated by his passing. Guy had an exceptional career and always remained humble, accessible and close to the Habs and hockey fans in Quebec, Canada and around the world. Throughout his career, he allowed us to experience great moments of collective pride. He was one of the greatest players in our organization while becoming an extraordinary ambassador for our organization and for hockey.

“Guy is part of the Canadiens family and the organization will provide all the necessary support to the members of his family and his close circle of friends during this extremely difficult time. On behalf of the Molson family and all members of the Montreal Canadiens organization, I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Lise and his sons Martin and Mark.”

The Canadiens announced they will hold a series of events to honour and celebrate Lafleur’s life and career, and they will provide further details “shortly.”

Until then, and for always, Lafleur will be remembered. His life may be extinguished, but his flame burns eternal.

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