“Lafleur… exiting rather cautiously from the right side. He gives in to Lemaire, comes back to Lafleur… he scores!!! –Danny Gallivan
May 10, 1979. A day hockey fans of a certain age will never forget.
Game 7, NHL Semi-Finals. The three-time defending Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens battled against rival Boston Bruins, coached by the awe-inspiring Don Cherry.
The Habs trailed 4-3 late in the game, on the power play thanks to a now infamous too many men on the ice penalty.
With the weight of a dynasty on his shoulders, the game’s most iconic player stepped up to his most iconic moment.
Guy Lafleur caught a pass from Jacques Lemaire, fired a thunderbolt from the top of the right circle that beat goaltender Gilles Gilbert and sent the Montreal Forum crowd into a frenzy.
The rest of the game is almost a footnote. Yvon Lambert scored in overtime, the Canadiens beat the New York Rangers in the Cup final and Cherry became a television legend.
But that moment, and so many others in the childhood of myself and countless thousands of other good Canadian kids, belonged to Lafleur.
I always try to process the news that Lafleur, The demon Blond, died on Friday (April 22) after battling cancer. He was 70 years old.
“I hope you write something,” said fellow scholar John McKinley, a hockey kid in the same vein – and somehow still a loyal Buffalo Sabers fan all these years more. late. “Someone who’s been through it needs to explain what this guy meant to so many kids growing up when we did it.”
I think you just did, John.
Lafleur will always be larger than life for me. He was almost more artist than gamer, a super-powered Ferrari in the middle of a parade of tractors in the restless 1970s.
We didn’t have unlimited access to all games on TV or social media music videos. We had maybe once a week on TV, plus summaries of the morning papers, magazines “borrowed” from the school library, and our imaginations.
And oh, how Guy Lafleur sparked our imaginations.
He was a rock star, with a frenetic speed-based game highlighted by his long flowing hair.
He won goalscoring titles and Stanley Cups, appeared in commercials and even made a disco album. He made it cool to drive a Monte Carlo. He chain-smoked between periods. Lafleur, Wayne Gretzky and Gilbert Perreault’s line at the 1981 Canada Cup may have been the best ever assembled.
He was loved by everyone, from little children to heads of state.
On the ice and off, he went full speed. His career was almost like a comet – burning brighter than everyone else for a short time, then fading too soon.
You could measure his greatness by the grudging respect he had from all my Hab-hating buddies growing up.
“I hate them, but this Lafleur is so good,” was a familiar refrain.
This reverence was universal.
As a young journalist, I used to have long conversations with former NHL referee Lloyd Gilmour, who regaled me wide-eyed with wonderful stories from his life in the game.
The two players he talked about the most? Bobby Orr and Guy Lafleur.
‘The Flower’ retired at 33, frustrated with his role in what had become a defense-focused team.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame and then gave his fans a magnificent second act, emerging with the New York Rangers after a four-year absence, with a little less hair in the wind but still the same electric aura.
Upon his return to the Forum, he summoned magic once more, scoring twice against Patrick Roy, the failing ovations for an opposing player surely unmatched in Habs lore.
I covered a long series of NHL alumni games.
They mostly played in half-filled arenas. Unless Lafleur was on the lineup, whereupon 6,000 people suddenly crammed into a 3,000-seat arena, cheery firefighters pounding the stairs like blue, white, and red sardines.
I was lucky in this job to meet all kinds of famous celebrities.
Only once did I “break my character” and become a dazzled little boy. I was lucky enough to sit down with Lafleur, who happily answered all my questions for 45 minutes, like there was no one else in the world. When we were done, I couldn’t help myself, asking for a photo, a request he happily honored.
Then our photographer said “can I have one too?” and handed me the camera.
Of course, Lafleur agreed.
After he left, I asked the veteran photographer if he had ever done anything like this before.
“No, never,” he said. “But I mean, come on – it was Guy Lafleur.”
When a childhood hero passes by, there is a certain sense of melancholy, an awareness of one’s own mortality.
But those memories can still transport you instantly to a time of innocence and wonder and for those memories I am forever grateful.
Thanks for everything, #10.
VI Free Daily/PQB News editor Philip Wolf can be reached at [email protected] or 250-905-0029.
To like we on Facebook and to follow we on Twitter