Our Jean


It was the mid-’80s and I was at the Forum offices to pick up a team-signed Bob Gainey stick that was waiting for me, and after getting it, I went down some stairs leading out but stopped at the bottom to wrap the stick in my coat to protect the autographs.

As I was wrapping it, the door above opened, and it was Jean Beliveau of all people. He saw what I was doing and he looked startled and he hesitated, because I’m sure he thought at first glance that it could’ve been a gun.

I picked up on his reaction, explained what I was doing, and he came down and took his pen out, ready to add his name to the stick. But I was so surprised, so brain-dead, that I just kept wrapping, and he put his pen back in his pocket and walked out the door and across the street into a restaurant.

I remember watching him as he walked across the street, and thinking that I’d just had an encounter with the great Jean Beliveau. But I had startled him, didn’t want his autograph, and blew a chance to have a beautiful and possibly lengthy chat.

Regrets, I’ve had a bunch. And this one’s right up there.

Born in Trois Rivieres and raised in Victoriaville, both relatively small cities fittingly midway between Montreal and Quebec where Jean gave his heart, soul, and staggering talent to both, first with the Citadelles and Aces in the provincial capital, and then as a beloved Montreal Canadien.

And in return, whether it was Quebec for an older generation, or the Canadiens for the rest of us, we cheered, admired, and embraced him.

We were proud of our Jean Beliveau, from his playing days through to the end. So lucky to have him.  Classy, friendly, polite, and dignified. One of the greatest ever, on and off the ice, and he was a Montreal Canadien. He was ours.

When the Rocket passed away in 2000, dark clouds hung over my head for weeks and probably months. And now it’s Jean. He was 83 years old and everyone has to go at some point, but of course it’s not easy.

I grew up watching him, beginning years before it became his turn to wear the captain’s ‘C’. I saw him play in the late-1950s at Maple Leaf Gardens with my dad, and throughout the 1960s at both the Gardens and Forum. I’m proud to be able to say that. He was a hero among heroes. A king of kings.

Jean, may you continue to lead and inspire in your new home, heaven. We’ll miss you so much.


17 thoughts on “Our Jean”

  1. Beautifully said, Dennis. I’ve been looking online at the CBC’s coverage this morning. Without a doubt, Mr. Beliveau was/is my favorite of all time. We used his name for the play-by-play action during our street hockey games in Baie d’Urfe, Quebec and he simultaneously centered the forward line on my Canadiens-Leafs table hockey set. What a class act he was, both on the ice and off, and a wonderful ambassador for the Canadiens organization. Rest in peace, Jean.

  2. Beautiful article Dennis. What happened with Jean though – ouch. I remember seeing Mordecai Richler at Chapters once and he was looking at a book. I wanted to go over and just say hi and to say how much I loved his writing. I didn’t, and never got the chance again. Arrrgh.

    I think we need our head examined sometimes.

    The sun won’t shine as bright today. RIP Jean.

  3. Beautifully put, Dennis. I could not have said it any better. My late father, growing up in Montreal in the late 40s and 1950s, told me many stories about the old Habs, especially Le Gros Bill.
    Rest In Peace, Jean. You were one of the golden ones.

  4. Even though his prolonged illness kept him away, it still felt as if he was present with us during the games. But now his seat of honour at the Bell Centre is vacant and there will be no more smiles and waves of appreciation from Jean Beliveau towards his loving fans.

    We hoped this day would never come. But sadly of course it must come, today for him, and one day for all of us.

    Le Gros Bill, as he was sometimes called, was a giant in so many ways.

    He gave everything he had to the fans, the city and the team he loved so much.

    In spite of his many accomplishments, (which include a career 507 goals and 1,219 points plus ten Stanley Cups victories) it was never about me, myself and I with Jean. He was a legend – but he was never aloof and always approachable . He had a dignified grace about him and was truly respectful while giving his time towards his many adoring fans.

    It was his dignity and class which he consistently showed towards the people who loved him which made him so special. The elegance and grace of his character is what put Jean Beliveau in a league of his own.

    The Montreal Canadiens are a storied franchise because of great men like him.

    Montreal, Canada and the world is now a poorer place without Mr. Jean Beliveau.

    Such sad news.

    May he rest in peace.

  5. Hi Kane, A sad day but also an eloquent tribute from you to the Captain . Walt Whitman writing about another sad time wrote

    “O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
    The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;’

    Surely Captain Jean Béliveau has won the prize. He’s in the permanent hockey hall of fame, that eternal one upstairs and here …! He also scored his 500th against Minnesota! so that’s a good sign for tonight.

    He was unique as we all know as an athlete and as a man of words. Not many sportsmen are equally eloquent . His was arare combination, and we’re lucky to have been around the same time as he was.

    One of the giants, and I guess that leaves Gordie Howe! What an era!

    Carey Price said it in an interview ” He was an outstanding citizen … he was the bar for being a Montreal Canadien.” He was the standard of being a champion.”

    His 500th



    His legacy to us as fans and citizens would be to carry on no matter what!

    It’s terrific to see you posting again… The game will be exciting tonight.

  6. Dennis

    I was never a Montreal Canadiens fan but I was a big fan of Jean Beliveau.It has been a sad week for Canadiens’ fans.First Gilles Tremblay and now Jean Beliveau.

    The giants of the 1950s and 1960s are leaving us.We all nervously await Gordie Howe’s condition.

    Jean Beliveau was asked to be the Governor General … wow … that goes beyond being a great hockey player.He was a great Canadian … a great man.


  7. Dennis, great tribute, I’ll post at a later date when I come to terms with my loss of my childhood & forever Idol!!

  8. Excellent post, Dennis. I really love reading your personal stories.

    Feeling blue today. I know he’s in a good place, just seems a part of hockey is gone.

  9. I’m singing this right now…

    My Dad hooked me up with that team,
    A long, long time ago.
    I remember hearing everyone scream,
    Thanks to a goal from Beliveau.
    An awesome guy in every way,
    Should still be here today.
    God bless you Mister Four,
    Your number is on my door.

  10. Hey Dennis, Les Bleu Blanc et Rouge will forever be known as Jean Beliveau’s team.He was the man who not only played his heart out for a franchise but also put his heart into his fans and his projects. You my friend have paid Jean a great tribute, it was a pleasure to read and the comments were like a desert to a fine meal, adios Jean.

  11. Good story Dennis and I am sure we have all had a moment like that with someone somewhere. I have but this is not the place for it now. Habs fans everywhere have lost a man that cannot be replaced and that had no peer. His stature was above all others and he will truly be missed.

  12. Growing up in Toronto watching our old black and white Keon and Beliveau on ice …..magic

    RIP big Jean….

  13. Well Dennis, judging from the last 2 pictures you still ended up with an autograph and a personal note! So that didn’t turn out too bad in fact you got a great story as well. I didn’t start to watch hockey until the early 70s and don’t remember seeing Beliveau play and that is one of my bigger regrets. So I only knew him as a former player and my memories of him are seeing him sitting behind the bench at home games looking like Canadien’s royalty. I’m going to miss that.

  14. Nice, cool site Dennis, growing up in Boulamaque now Val d’or, I remember watching Jean Beliveau score beautiful goals on our rented b/w tv, He was my favorite player and I always admired him and respected the man, we need more men like Mr. Beliveau, what a perfect example of a man, I will miss him and am saddened.

  15. Thanks to everyone for all their great comments about Le Gros Bill. Awesome stuff, and I know we in the Habs family of fans all feel a deep void from the passing of this great fellow.

  16. Greatest captain in NHL history. It still bothers me that some people pretend that others are in the discussion. It’s not close. It never was close.

    There are people who have real class, and there are people who get their friends in the media to pretend they have class. No one needed to buff Jean Beliveau’s image.

    He was the real deal.

  17. Hockey_fan – no one comes close, and a lot of them could learn from Jean how to act on and off the ice. I’m hoping this year’s Habs will grow from his passing and understand more what it is to be a Montreal Canadien. Some retired players say you only fully understand what it means after being retired, but I’m hoping the young guys learn now instead.

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