By Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
(OTTAWA, ON) – On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends, colleagues and many fans of Jean Béliveau, who passed away at the age of 83.
Known affectionately as Le Gros Bill, Béliveau was quite simply one of the most talented and gracious players to ever play the game. His renowned skills as a centre, including his skating ability and expert stick handling, were perhaps only eclipsed by his unfailing sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, both on and off the ice.
A pillar of the Montreal Canadiens for decades, he contributed enormously as both a player and later an executive to the Habs, earning 17 Stanley cups. He still ranks second on the team’s all-time regular season scoring list with 1,219 points, and holds the Canadiens’ record with 176 career playoff points in 162 contests.
Béliveau made the All-Star Team numerous times, and won many of the League’s most prestigious honours, including the Art Ross Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy, and the Hart Memorial Trophy. Le Gros Bill was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.
Béliveau was also a philanthropist, contributing to the Alzheimer Society and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, as well as to a multitude of activities for children with disabilities, including through the Jean Béliveau Foundation.
Jean Béliveau was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1998 and a Grand officier de l’Ordre national du Québec in 2010. He was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2001 and into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1975. He was also the recipient of the NHL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
Béliveau will be remembered as a hockey giant who inspired a nation with his outstanding skill, humility, and pure love of the game. His legacy lives on in the records he set, the legions of hockey players that he inspired, and the deep love he shared with his home province of Quebec.