Jean Beliveau was in Vancouver this weekend and gave a really nice interview with The Province’s Jim Jamieson. I thought you might like it.
Q: What does the 100th anniversary of the Canadiens mean to you?
A: I find myself to be very fortunate to be part of it; I’ve been with them since Oct. 3, 1953 when I signed my first contract. I’m a very lucky man. I’ve never been traded and been with the organization for 55 years.
Q: How is your health these days? You had some health issues about eight years ago.
A: One morning I was shaving and noticed something on my neck. It turned out to be a malignant tumour. I had 36 treatments of radiation. It’s been 8 1/2 years and we are more optimistic every year.
Q: How many children do you and your wife have?
A: I have one daughter who is 51 and two grand-daughters, 24 and 22. The first one is an artist, she paints; and the second is a nurse.
Q: You auctioned off some of your memorabilia earlier this year in aid of the Jean Beliveau Foundation. What does your foundation do?
A: When I retired in 1971, the Canadiens presented me with a cheque for $155,000 and I turned it into a fund. In 1993, I turned it over to the Quebec Society for Crippled Children. Now the foundation is worth about $1.5 million and we have given about $1.5 million. I’m very proud.
Q: You were a part of the great Canadiens teams that won five straight Stanley Cups in the last half of the 1950′s. With today’s salary cap in the NHL, do you think we’ll ever see that happen again?
A: In today’s hockey it’s going to be difficult. A team is built around four or five guys, if you’re lucky enough to have them. But it’s very difficult to keep them now. If you start playing young, you’re free at 26. Teams have to rebuild all the time.
Q: We seem to be seeing more hits from behind and shots to the head today. What would you do to reduce it?
A: I played 23 years and never wore a helmet. I don’t know how players can hit someone from behind when he’s facing the glass. I have a hard time with that. I hope the league finds a way to get rid of it before somebody gets seriously hurt. If you’re suspended it hits the pocketbook.
Q: Who was the most difficult goaltender, defenceman and forward that you ever played against?
A: I always had a lot of respect for Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk. On defence there were some great ones – Bobby Orr, because of his speed, won the scoring championship. Red Kelly in Detroit also, but every team had a great defenceman when there was just six teams. At forward, I always had respect for Gordie Howe. He could do everything. Every time we played Chicago I was out against [Stan] Mikita and against Toronto it was [Dave] Keon. The Rangers had Jean Ratelle and [Rod] Gilbert, but there were so many others.
Q: Who was the best player you played with on the Canadiens?
A: Well, Maurice [Richard] of course, but I used to play with him mostly on the power play. My line was [Bernie "Boom Boom"] Geoffrion and Bert Olmstead, so we had two offensive lines and a good checking line. Also, we had Doug Harvey on defence. He could control the speed of the game like a general out there.
Q: The Canadiens power play was so dominant in the 1950′s that you actually forced the NHL to change the minor-penalty rule because your team would often score multiple goals on the same man advantage.
A: We had Maurice on the right, Bert Olmstead or Dickie Moore on the left, and and Harvey and Geoffrion on the point. One night against Boston (Nov. 5, 1955) I got three goals in 44 seconds on the power play. So they changed the rule that a player would come out of the box after one goal.
Q: How have you seen the NHL change through expansion?
A: I’m not surprised there are a few cities in the south that seem to have problems. Here in Canada, everybody has skated and they know about the game. In the morning when I check the summary of the games, I look at shots and attendance. In the US, the attendance is increasing it seems after the Super Bowl.
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