On August 31, 1931, a baby boy was born in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, and he was the classiest baby in the entire hospital.
In his brief stay there with his mom, this little baby was the leader of babies, helping them calm down after a crying session, gently reminding each of them that it was okay to let it all out from top and bottom, and he taught them to appreciate the love being sent from all around.
Everyone loved the little baby Jean. And everyone continued to love him when he became Jean Beliveau.
I saw Jean Beliveau play several times at both Maple Leaf Gardens and the Forum. He was, in general, the most noticeable player on the ice because of his size – 6’3″, 205 lb, which was bigger than most then, and of course his smooth skating and poetic puck handling. He was the one asking the referee the questions, the one up front on the power play, the one that fans in Toronto would watch nervously because they knew he was always smart and dangerous.
I think I almost gave him a heart attack once. I was at the Montreal Forum picking up a stick the team had given me after I had written asking if I could have a Guy Lafleur game-used stick and they said if I was willing to drive from Ottawa, then come on down, they’d have something for me.
In the end it wasn’t a Lafleur stick but instead a Bob Gainey unused stick signed by the 1984-85 team, which was still a pretty good deal considering they were giving it to me for free. The Montreal Canadiens have always been a good organization when it comes to the fans.
I left with the stick and found a door into another part of the Forum where I decided to wrap my new gift so I wouldn’t smudge the signatures, and as I was doing this, the door opened at the top of the stairs and it was Jean Beliveau.
When he saw me down below wrapping a long object, he stopped dead in his tracks with a real surprised look on his face, like I was wrapping a gun. But I quickly showed him what I was doing and he slowly came down the stairs and reached for his pen to sign my stick. But I had already wrapped it and for reasons unknown to man, I didn’t bother to unwrap it. So he put his pen back in his pocket and walked out into the street.
It was an unusual few minutes. And I feel bad that I startled him. And because of that, I want to wish an extra happy birthday to the man.
Happy Birthday Jean Beliveau! May you have many, many more.