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01-31-2011, 02:03 PM
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C Jean Beliveau.

6'3", 205lbs.
1,219 points in 1,125 career NHL games
176 points in 162 career NHL playoff games
Hockey Hall of Fame Member
#7 on THN's List of 100 Greatest Hockey Players
Montreal Canadiens Captain 1961-1971
10x Stanley Cup Champion (His name is on the cup 17 times, an all time record)
2x Hart Trophy Winner (4x 2nd, 1x 3rd, 2x 4th)
13x NHL All Star Game Participant
6x 1st Team All-NHL
4x 2nd Team All-NHL
1x Art Ross Trophy Winner
1x Conn Smythe Trophy Winner
10x Top 10 Goals NHL (1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9)
11x Top 10 Assists NHL (1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10)
12x Top 10 Points NHL (1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 6, 8, 8, 9)
4x Top 10 PP goals NHL (3, 3, 7, 8)
9x Top 10 Goals NHL Playoffs (1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 6, 6, 8)
10x Top 10 Assists NHL Playoffs (1, 1, 1, 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 7)
11x Top 10 Points NHL Playoffs (1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 9)
1st in Playoff Points during career(52 ahead of 2nd place)
2nd in Points during NHL career(behind Howe)

Jean "Le Gros Bill" Beliveau was one of the all-time classiest players in the NHL, both on the ice and off. He made his career as a strong skater and was hard if not impossible to slow down. He was nicknamed after a popular French song of the day by the same name, "le Gros Bill," and in all he played on an incredible 10 Stanley Cup-winning teams as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

Born in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, in 1931, Beliveau first played organized hockey in Victoriaville, Quebec. He played junior hockey as a member of the Quebec City Citadelles and senior hockey for the Quebec Aces. The Canadiens wanted the young Beliveau in their lineup, but he wasn't all that eager to play for them.

But the Canadiens owned the rights to Beliveau, so he couldn't play for another pro team unless Montreal traded him. Since the Aces were an amateur team, there was no conflict with his staying there. Finally, Montreal purchased the entire Quebec Senior Hockey League, turned it pro and added Jean Beliveau to their roster. Without much choice in the matter, Beliveau signed on with the Canadiens in 1953 for a then unheard-of $100,000 contract over five years.

Beliveau made the All-Star Team 10 times, was the leading scorer of all time for Montreal and the all-time leading scorer in Stanley Cup history as well. After playing a total of five regular season games in 1950-51 and 1952-53, he played another 18 seasons with Montreal, and in 10 of those he led the team as their captain.

When he retired from the game, Beliveau said, "I made up my mind to offer my place to a younger player." He added: "It's hard, but I will play no more. I only hope that I have made a contribution to a great game. Hockey has been my life since the day my father gave me a pair of skates when I was five years old." In reverence to all that Beliveau gave to hockey, the Canadiens held Jean Beliveau Night at the Montreal Forum in March 1971. They also established the Jean Beliveau Fund for underprivileged kids.

For everyone who knew him, the fund was a very fitting way to say farewell to Beliveau, as he was considered by many to be a true role model for kids. Clarence Campbell, president of the NHL, said: "Any parent could use Jean Beliveau as a pattern or role model. He provides hockey with a magnificent image. I couldn't speak more highly of anyone who has ever been associated with our game than I do of Jean."

Mention the name Jean Beliveau, and so many images come to mind. His size, his skills, his class - he was the perfect hockey player and an even better person. He's one of the few players that seems to have transcended the game itself, particularly in his native Quebec.

"Le Gros Bill" (Jean was nicknamed after a French folk hero) was the centerpiece of the mighty Montreal Canadiens dynasty that accumulated 10 Stanley Cups during his extraordinary reign. Five of those championships came with him serving as captain - no other man has captained his team to more Stanley Cups. Twice voted the NHL's MVP, he was a First All Star in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1961. He was the scoring champ in 1956 and was the first recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs in 1965. He accumulated 507 goals, 712 assists for a point total of 1219 in 1125 games, all with Les Habitants. He racked up 176 more points in 162 playoff games.

Most "experts" agree that Beliveau is one of the top ten players in hockey history. He is also almost universally regarded as one of the top three centers in NHL history - along with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

Mario Lemieux is most often compared to Jean, and it is a very accurate assessment. That statement alone gives younger fans an idea of just how Le Gros Bill was. Like Mario, Big Jean was an almost unseen blend of grace and power. He had the body of a giant, yet was such a gentleman. He could use his physical gifts to dominate a game, but more often than not relied on his skill and smarts.

Wild Bill Eznicki, one of the most physical players of his era, recalled what it was like to attempt to knock down Beliveau: "It was like running into the side of a big oak tree. I bounced right off the guy and landed on the seat of my pants."

His uncanny physical gifts weren't his only blessing on the ice. He was a great skater - deceptively fast due to his long stride. He was a puckhandling wizard with a great knack for goal scoring. He was a majestic player known for his crisp passes and laser like shot.

Beliveau's journey to Montreal was one of the most interesting in pro sports history. The Canadiens purchased an entire hockey league in order to get him. The Habs held Jean's negotiating rights, but he refused to sign with them, preferring to stay in his hometown of Quebec City where he already was a legend with the junior team and was being paid big money to play as a supposed amateur in the Quebec Senior League. In fact many reports suggest he was being paid more money than any professional of the day, including Gordie Howe and Rocket Richard! But moreover, Jean felt a great deal of loyalty to the Quebec Aces and the people of Quebec City, and just wasn't quite ready to leave yet. He was treated like royalty, and he wanted to stay to repay his debt of gratitude.

However the Canadiens had just won their first Stanley Cup since 1946 in 1953 and they wanted to inject some of their top junior prospects in order to get them over the hump known as the dynastic Detroit Red Wings of the 1950s. Dickie Moore and Boom Boom Geoffrion were two key additions, but the graceful giant Beliveau was a must have as far as Frank Selke was concerned. He went to great lengths to ensure he could get Beliveau in a Habs jersey. The Canadiens purchased the whole league and turned the league professional just to get Beliveau in a Habs jersey! Beliveau could have played in the amateurs forever but once he became a professional he had to play with Montreal. By turning the whole league professional, Beliveau had to travel down the highway and lace up for Montreal.

But by 1955-56, Beliveau and the Habs arrived. Beliveau seemingly took the torch from Rocket Richard's hands and led the Habs to their first of 5 consecutive Stanley Cups. En route, Beliveau scored a league high 47 goals and 88 points in the regular season, plus 12 goals and 19 points in 10 post season games. It was one of the greatest seasons by any individual in hockey history.

The Canadiens owned the remainder of the decade. Beliveau was of course a huge part of what many consider to be the greatest team in NHL history. He never quite duplicated his great 55-56 season, though came close in 1958-59 when he again lead the league with 45 goals in just 64 games, plus 91 points. While the Habs of course won the Cup that year too, Jean was only able to play in 3 games (accumulating 5 points) due to injuries.

The 1960s have been termed The Forgotten Decade by Montreal Canadiens decades. Rocket Richard had retired at the beginning of the decade, and the Canadiens got off to a slow start in terms of championships. But by the end of the decade Jean led the Habs to 5 Stanley Cups in 7 years (including 1971).

5 championships in 7 seasons has earned the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1940s and the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s dynastic status, but that has eluded the Habs of the 60s. Perhaps that was because Canada's other team - the Toronto Maple Leafs - did so well and it is remembered their decade. And despite great performances from Jean, Geoffrion, Henri Richard and many Canadiens, that team seemed to lack that one iconic attraction that captured the Quebec fans - like Rocket Richard of the 1950s and Guy Lafleur of the 1970s.

That 1971 Stanley Cup was special. The Chicago Blackhawks were favored to win, yet somehow a combination of the old guard and some of the young guns of the 1970s dynasty teamed together to win a surprise Cup. It was a perfect moment for Jean to ride out into the sunset. He retired at the end of the playoffs.

I could see there was something special about the Hab's big number four-on and off the ice.-Wayne Gretzky

"He was so unassuming for a guy of his stature. He was a very unselfish player. He had great moves, that great range, and anybody playing on a line with him was certain to wind up with a lot more goals. If you got there, the puck would be there. He had so much courage, so much determination."

"It's just that we were so damned proud to have him as our captain."

"As a hockey player and a gentleman, Jean Beliveau is unbeatable. He has no equal."

Their star player was a smooth-skating, hard-shooting playmaker by the name of Jean Beliveau

His reign as the dominant center in the league created thrill after thrill, night after night,

A powerful skater, he had a polished air of composed confidence that made him a natural leader both on and off the ice.

For years any controversy over who was the best player in hockey has been pretty well confined to right wingers Maurice Richard of Montreal and Gordie Howe of Detroit.

Now Bill Chadwick, former NHL referee, injects the name of Montreal's "Le Gros Bill" centre Jean Beliveau.

Chadwick said, "Beliveau is the best I have ever seen", and "smarter" than the Rocket. "You never seen Beliveau give the puck away. There isn't anything he can't do." Referring to his bullet shot, Chadwick added: "Some guys can put it through the building but miss the net. Beliveau never misses."

Jean Beliveau, the youngster who performs like an old smoothie...

An old Beliveau and xxx could shut down Orr something that xxx and Hull had a hard time doing.

But xxx, xxx, and Beliveau were certainly 3 of the guys that I remember as being good face-off men.

Ted Lindsay says he means no disrespect to Gretzky and Mario when he says that Big John is the greatest centre that has ever played the game because the 205lbs swift-skating 6'3" pivot "played in a tough time, when checking was tough, where guys knew how to bodycheck, how to hit, you checked your man, you took your man"

Beliveau was a strong and nimble skater, able to make remarkable changes of direction at top speed. Despite his size, he had quick feet in tight places. On the rush, he had long, graceful strides that gobbled up ice.

Classiest player of all-time
Most respected player of all-time
Best leader of all-time
Best winner of all-time
Best Stick-Handler of the 1950's
Most Admired Player of the 1950's
Highest Paid Player of the 1950's
1950's Decade All-Star
Best Passer of the 1960's (with Stan Mikita)
Best All-Around Player of the 1960's
Best Line of the 1960's (with 2 undrafteds on the wings)
Comparable Recent Player: Mario Lemieux
In A Word: Elegant
-Ultimate Hockey

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