MONTREAL -- Emile (Butch) Bouchard, a longtime Montreal Canadiens captain and four-time Stanley Cup winner, died Saturday. He was 92.
His death was confirmed by his friend and sports analyst Ron Fournier, who said Bouchard was surrounded by his family when he died.
Bouchard scored 49 goals in 785 games during his 15-year NHL career. The defenceman captained the Habs for eight years and retired after the 1955-56 season.
The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup four times while he was with the team, and twice while he was captain.
"He was one of the great captains in the history of the Canadiens," Rejean Houle, the Habs alumni president, who played with the Canadiens in the 1970s and 80s, said in an interview Saturday.
"It was a period where the team really became a dynasty."
Pierre Bouchard, member of the Canadiens himself from 1970 to 1978, said his father remained active until the end of his life.
"He was getting old, but he was in good shape," he said.
Born in Montreal on Sept. 4, 1919, Emile Bouchard wasn't planning on a career in hockey after originally wanting to work in banking or as a beekeeper.
He played many sports growing up, including baseball and boxing, but it was only around age 16 that he began to take hockey seriously.
After borrowing $35 from his brother to buy equipment, Bouchard began playing for the Verdun Maple Leafs of Quebec's old Provincial Senior League.
The rugged six-foot-two, 205-pound Bouchard quickly got noticed and the Montreal Canadiens offered him his first professional contract to play with their minor league club in Providence, R.I. He played 12 games for the team in 1940-41.
Bouchard grabbed the big club's attention at training camp the following year when he made the 80-kilometre trip by bicycle from his home in Montreal to the training site in St-Hyacinthe, Que.
Bouchard earned a spot on the blue-line and played the next 15 seasons with the club, establishing a reputation as one of the best hitters of the era.
He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1966.
Despite his success, Bouchard had to wait 43 years to have his No. 3 jersey retired. After a grassroots campaign started by his family, he was honoured alongside fellow Habs great Elmer Lach before the team's centennial game on Dec. 4, 2009.
Bouchard was also a successful Montreal businessman. Hockey didn't keep him from beekeeping during his playing career. From 1938 to 1950, his 1.2 million bees produced up to 6,800 kilograms of honey annually.
In 1948, he opened his own restaurant, called Butch Bouchard, in downtown Montreal. It was a mainstay in the area, hosting cabaret shows and musicians until it closed in 1983.
Houle remembers going to the restaurant with his teammates after games, and got to know Bouchard well.
"He was a great leader, just by his presence," Houle said. "When we played a good game, he was always proud to see us win. His heart belonged to the Canadiens, that's clear."
Bouchard also combined business and sports, becoming the director of the Montreal Royals of baseball's International League in 1956, which was the farm club of the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time. He was promoted to president in 1957 but the club played its final season in 1960.
Bouchard married painter Marie-Claire Macbeth in 1946 and had five children.
A funeral service is expected to be held next Saturday.
I love old hockey stories that include things like ... captained the Habs for eight years ... won the Stanley Cup four times ... "He was one of the great captains in the history of the team" ... "He was getting old, but he was in good shape" ... wasn't planning on a career in hockey after originally wanting to work in banking or as a beekeeper ... after borrowing $35 from his brother to buy equipment ... he made the 80-kilometre trip by bicycle from his home to the training site ... inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1966 .. his jersey retired ... also a successful businessman ... hockey didn't keep him from beekeeping during his playing career. From 1938 to 1950, his 1.2 million bees produced up to 6,800 kilograms of honey annually ... he opened his own restaurant, called Butch Bouchard, in downtown Montreal.
Can't claim to have any personal interaction with him or to even speak French, but he's one of the legendary players who gets lost in the shuffle of history sometimes who I have enjoyed learning about him in this forum over the past 5 years of hfboards membership. Favorite team I've ever built in the All-Time Draft was anchored by him, Larry Robinson, Chris Pronger, Eric Lindros and Ken Dryden ... my, how much fun would that have been to see that for real!!!
I hope I get 92 years, and I hope I get "surrounded by family when he died." All the best, Butch.