Jean Béliveau

March 3, 2012 by staff 

Jean Béliveau, A city – and a country – held its breath this week with news that 80-year-old Montreal Canadiens icon Jean Beliveau had been hospitalized after suffering a stroke at his home on Monday night.

Beliveau’s wife, Elise, said on Thursday afternoon that the Hall of Famer was speaking, laughing and regaining some strength while he undergoes tests and remains under close obversation by specialists.

She added that the family appreciates the outpouring of concern and affection being expressed, but asked that the family’s privacy be respected.

There has certainly been no shortage of prayers and hopes from hockey fans across Canada that Beliveau will continue on the road to recovery. It seems like just about everyone who has ever been lucky enough to meet Beliveau in person has a story to tell about one of the great gentlemen in the history of sports.

One of the best descriptions I ever read about Beliveau came from an American, Steve Rushin, in Sports Illustrated after he attended a Canadiens game at the Bell Centre in 2003.

Wrote Rushin: “A ceremonial first puck was dropped by Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, resplendent in a perfectly tailored suit, his silver coif immaculate. (If God got a $500 haircut, he’d look like this.) Beneath 24 Stanley Cup banners Beliveau gave a regal half wave. There were 21,273 people in the stands, and we all roared like the MGM lion. My skin, I noticed, was pebbled like a plucked chicken’s.”

The first time I met Beliveau was at the Forum in 1991 as a Montreal Gazette reporter. I was assigned to write a story about the Hockey Friendship Program, which Beliveau was a part of for 20 years, bringing together English and French youngsters from across the country in an attempt to gain a better understanding of each other’s culture.

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