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The Final of the Nice Montreal Canadiens Skaters

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Man Lafleur’s 17-year NHL profession spanned from 1971 till 1991. The primary 14 years had been with the Habs, adopted by a three-year retirement. He then skated one season with the New York Rangers and two with the Quebec Nordiques. He’s generally known as one of many biggest proper wingers ever to play the sport and one of the vital thrilling offensive gamers of all time.

Oldmaison/Flickr

The Flower’s trophy case consists of two Hart Trophies because the NHL’s most precious participant (1977 and 1978), three Lester B. Pearson Awards (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award) for many excellent participant within the common season (1976, 1977 and 1978) as voted by the gamers, and one Conn Smythe Trophy for most precious participant through the playoffs (1977).

He has 5 Stanley Cups  (1973, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979), six consecutive 50-goal, 100-point seasons, 560 objectives and 793 assists for a complete of 1,353 factors.

In his prime, the three-time Artwork Ross Trophy winner (1976, 1977 and 1978), was virtually unstoppable. He was one of the vital prolific scorers and one of the vital thrilling gamers of his technology or another. From 1974 by way of 1980, a 462-game stretch, Lafleur scored an eye-popping 327 objectives and 439 assists for 766 factors (1.66 factors per recreation). The one different gamers to play at a better point-per-game tempo for such an prolonged time period had been Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Lafleur is the Montreal Canadiens’ all-time main scorer (518 objectives and 728 assists in 14 years) and holds the franchise report for many factors in a season (136).

On the time, Lafleur was the quickest participant within the NHL to achieve 1,000 factors, needing solely 720 video games. Solely 5 gamers since then have reached the 1,000-point mark sooner. Wayne Gretzky (424 video games), Mario Lemieux (513), Mike Bossy (656), Peter Stastny (682) and Jari Kurri (716). Of be aware, Gretzky was the one participant to high the two,000-point mark. His second 1,000 factors had been scored in simply 433 video games.

These numbers, whereas very spectacular, solely inform a part of the story of Man Lafleur.

“Particular person information are good to get, however earlier than the season begins, you need to play to win the Stanley Cup,” he defined.

A Thrill a Minute

Within the 70s, no scorer was extra good. LaFleur was one half speedster, one half magician, and one half artist. Even on a dominant Canadiens staff, he stood out. His trademark easy skating model and scoring contact had been a menace each time he took the ice and his lengthy, streaming blond hair dared to maintain up with him. He captured the imaginations of everybody.

Groups would usually clutch, seize and slash Lafleur, however nothing stopped him. Scotty Bowman, Lafleur’s coach in Montreal had nice respect for him. “Apart from his huge capacity and nice need, Man had extraordinary charisma,” Bowman stated. “He had the power to convey spectators to the rink after which present them one thing uncommon.”

Assembly His Hero

Man “The Flower” (Le Démon Blond) Lafleur was born on Sept. 20, 1951, in Thurso, Quebec. Like many Canadians, he grew up idolizing Jean Beliveau and enjoying hockey on the rink behind his home that his father constructed each winter. He was so obsessive about hockey that he’d sleep in his tools so he’d be able to play within the morning.

He’d skate infinite hours at his native rink. “We performed hockey at midday, and after faculty, we practiced till darkish. All of the Brothers (clergymen at École Ste. Famille) had been mad about hockey,” stated Lafleur.

In 1962, Lafleur was 10 years outdated and scoring effortlessly in opposition to boys older than him. One time, he met his childhood hero whereas enjoying at Le Colisee, the world also referred to as “The Home that Beliveau Constructed” resulting from Beliveau’s success with the Quebec Citadelles and the Quebec Aces. Beliveau dropped by to satisfy the youngsters enjoying in a match.

Jean Beliveau, Lafleur’s childhood idol.

“I’d scored a hat trick within the peewee match recreation that day and Jean put a hat on my head for an image, the way in which photographers in Montreal would put one on his after he’d scored three,” Lafleur stated a long time later recounting the state of affairs.

“Think about. You’re 10 years outdated, you’ve been watching this man on TV, studying about him, worshipping him, pretending that you just’re him, and now right here he’s in entrance of you within the dressing room, reporters and photographers throughout, and he’s telling you that he preferred the way in which you’d performed.”

Greater than half a century later, Lafleur nonetheless shakes his head with infantile delight and disbelief on the reminiscence of assembly his hero.

Lafleur in Junior

In his teenagers, Lafleur tore up the Quebec Main Junior Hockey League. He signed with Quebec at solely 15 years outdated and weighing simply 135 kilos. That didn’t sluggish him down. In three seasons with the Quebec Jr. Aces, he scored 161 factors in 100 video games. He then performed two seasons for the newly-named Quebec Remparts, totaling a mind-boggling 379 factors in 118 video games. In his last season, he scored a whopping 130 objectives and 209 factors (each QMJHL bests), main them to the Memorial Cup as Canada’s high Main Junior staff in 1971.

“It was robust going to high school within the day and touring to video games at night time,” stated Lafleur. “Typically we might get again about midnight. I by no means went to dances or hung round with women. Hockey was the very first thing.”

The 1971 NHL Beginner Draft

Canadiens GM, Sam Pollock

Canadiens normal supervisor, Sam Pollock, had his eyes set on drafting both Lafleur or fellow French-Canadian Marcel Dionne within the 1971 NHL Beginner Draft.

With the Oakland Seals on the backside of the standings, Pollock struck a take care of Charlie Finley, the Seals proprietor, acquiring their first-round decide and Francois Lacombe for Montreal’s 1970 first-round decide and veteran Ernie Hicke. All of it however assured one of many first few picks for the Habs.

Because the season progressed, the Los Angeles Kings gave the impression to be even worse than the Seals, so Pollock hatched one other plan. He despatched heart Ralph Backstrom to Los Angeles for 2 minor leaguers. The plan labored as Backstrom sparked the Kings out of the league basement securing Oakland’s last-place end.

When June 10, 1971, got here round, Pollock selected Lafleur with the first-overall choice.

Lafleur was past thrilled to be drafted by the Habs. “All of the press got here and talked to me, and I didn’t know what to say,” stated Lafleur. “After I was a child, all we noticed on TV was the Canadiens, and all I wished to be was Beliveau. We had one bleu, blanc and rouge Canadiens sweater and I fought the others for the fitting to put on it. I dreaded to be drafted by any staff however Canadiens and once they took me, I used to be so completely satisfied.”

Dionne was chosen subsequent, by the Detroit Crimson Wings.

Lafleur’s Jersey on the Hockey Corridor of Fame (Wikimedia/Michael Barbera)

Selecting a quantity for Lafleur’s Habs jersey was crammed with drama. He’d worn No. Four whereas dominating in Junior. Many within the Habs entrance workplace wished him to put on retired Beliveau’s No. Four, positioning himself as the following famous person of the Canadiens.

Because the story goes, Beliveau initially requested Lafleur to take his quantity then had second ideas: “Don’t attempt to be a second Jean Beliveau. Be the primary Man Lafleur. Take a quantity and make it your individual.” Habs Coach Eddy Palchak tossed Lafleur a jersey and Lafleur skated out onto the Montreal Discussion board ice sporting No. 10.

The First Few Years

In his first three seasons in Montréal, Lafleur’s statistics had been thought-about common (175 factors in 215 common season video games) and he struggled to satisfy the ridiculously excessive requirements anticipated of him.

Not like Dionne who led his staff in scoring for the primary three seasons, the much-hyped Lafleur didn’t instantly take the staff or the league by storm. A part of that will have been resulting from the truth that he noticed restricted ice time as a rookie in 1971-72. The Habs had been that deep with gifted forwards.

The 29 objectives and 35 assists he scored in his rookie season had been fifth finest for Montreal. Forward of him had been Frank Mahovlich, Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Lemaire and Peter Mahovlich. Followers wished extra from Lafleur and even started to query Pollock’s determination to draft him.

Lafleur’s second and third seasons had been just like his first. He tallied 55 and 56 factors, respectively. In 1972-73, the Habs defeated the Chicago Black Hawks to win the Stanley Cup.

Superstardom Arrives

It wasn’t till 1974-75, that the French-Canadian winger left his critics behind and have become a powerhouse of offense, pouring in 53 objectives and 66 assists. It broke the staff’s report for many objectives, assists and factors in a single season. His electrifying rushes and look at of the sport drew comparisons to Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard and his idol, Beliveau. His thrilling pace usually left his blond locks flying behind him whereas his unpredictable playmaking left defenders tousled like a pretzel.

 

50 Objectives

When Lafleur netted purpose quantity 50, he turned the third Canadiens participant (and eleventh NHL participant) to attain 50 objectives in a season. Maurice Rocket Richard and Growth Growth Geoffrion each reached the plateau in 1945 and 1961, respectively. The Rocket known as the Discussion board between durations to congratulate Lafleur and need him continued success.

It started a string of six consecutive 50-goal seasons.

The Dynasty Years

The Canadiens gained 4 straight Stanley Cups, from 1976-79. Lafleur led the staff in scoring every year. His inventive playmaking expertise and explosive pace tied opponents in knots. It even induced havoc with some teammates. “He’s not the simplest participant to play with as a result of he’s all around the ice,” Steve Shutt stated of Lafleur, who theoretically performed on the fitting facet. “He doesn’t know what he’s going to do, so how can I do know?”

Man Lafleur of the Montreal Canadiens 1976 (Picture by Denis Brodeur/NHLI by way of Getty Pictures)

Over the following 5 seasons (1976-80), Lafleur scored not less than 50 objectives and 125 factors every season. He nonetheless holds the Canadiens’ report for many factors in an everyday season (136), set in 1976–77, and is tied with Shutt for many objectives in an everyday season by a Canadiens participant (60), set in 1977–78.

The staff is taken into account among the many finest Habs groups of all time, proper up there with the 50s staff that gained 5 straight Stanley Cups.

The 1978 Playoffs

The Habs confronted the Bruins within the 1978 Stanley Cup Remaining. In an effort to thwart Lafleur, Don Cherry, the Bruins’ pompous coach, ordered his gamers to maintain their sticks up in opposition to him. They adopted his directive and by the top of the sequence, Lafleur’s head was lined in bandages on account of numerous slashes. Regardless of the abuse, Lafleur tallied three objectives and two assists to assist lead his staff. The Habs gained the Cup in six video games.

The Evening He Stole the Cup

In 1978, after profitable their third consecutive Stanley Cup, the Habs took the trophy to Toe Blake’s tavern and Henri Richard’s brasserie to have a good time and mingle with followers. At the moment, there was just one Cup and gamers weren’t allowed to have the Cup for a day like they’re now.  That night time, Lafleur schemed a plan to steal the Cup from Claude Mouton, the person assigned to oversee it.

Members of the Canadiens collect across the Stanley Cup after defeating the Bruins Might 25, 1978. Left to proper are: Serge Savard, Yvon Lambert, Larry Robinson, Yvan Cournoyer, Man Lapointe and Jacques Lemaire. Partially hidden are Pierre Larouche and Ken Dryden. (CP PHOTO)

The plan labored. Lafleur stole the Cup from Mouton’s automotive later that night time and took it on a mini-tour of Montreal bars that night time. The subsequent day, he known as his father and advised him he was bringing it to his hometown, Thurso. A large occasion ensued with household, associates and neighbors on his entrance garden.

A fully irate Mouton tracked down Lafleur and demanded that he return the Cup instantly. At first, Lafleur playfully denied he even had it then relented, agreeing to return it the following day. “They nonetheless discuss that day in Thurso,” stated a proudly grinning Lafleur.

Well-known Aim

Lafleur scored one of the vital well-known objectives in Stanley Cup playoff historical past late within the third interval of a Recreation 7 Semifinal in opposition to the Boston Bruins in 1979. Down a purpose with solely a minute and alter left on the clock, Lafleur circled in his zone, skated up the ice, then flipped a go forward to Lemaire who entered the Bruins’ zone. Lemaire dropped a go again to Lafleur who rifled a slap shot into the far nook previous Bruins’ netminder Gilles Gilbert, knotting the sport, Four-Four.

Lafleur was not recognized for taking lengthy slapshots, so the aspect of shock might have helped idiot Gilbert. In additional time, Yvon Lambert gained the sport for the Habs. They went on to beat the Rangers in 5 video games.

The Eighties

The Canadiens’ dynasty ended when goalie Ken Dryden, ahead Jacques Lemaire and others retired after the 1978-79 season. Although Lafleur was injured and solely performed 51 video games within the 1980-81 season, he nonetheless put up a powerful 70 factors (27G, 43A). It was the primary time in seven years he failed to achieve the 50-goal mark.

On March 24, 1981, got here a pivotal level in Lafleur’s life. Following an evening of rousing with teammates, he practically escaped a deadly automotive accident when he fell asleep on the wheel and crashed right into a freeway fence. A steel publish went by way of his windshield and tore off a part of his ear.

“I made a decision to decelerate after that,” stated Lafleur. “I spotted that my household was extra vital to me than downtown nightlife. The gang doesn’t give a crap so long as you convey the cash in. When hassle comes, it’s your loved ones that helps you.”

1981 Canada Cup

Lafleur performed on a line with Gilbert Perreault and Wayne Gretzky through the Canada Cup in 1981.

“That’s the perfect line I ever performed on, ever. We checked out one another and we stated earlier than the video games: ‘Who’s going to hold the puck?’ [laughs] Gilbert was a left wing, so Wayne stated: “I’ll stand by the blue line and Gilbert, you see when you can decide up the puck.” Me, I used to be coming alongside inside my zone and tried to observe Gilbert.”

Gretzky chats with Lafleur (Picture by Frank Lennon/Toronto Star by way of Getty Pictures)

“It was the best expertise of my life,” he recollected. “We had a lot enjoyable.”

The trio was robust to cease, not to mention include. Sadly, the expertise was short-lived as Perreault broke his ankle within the fourth recreation of the match.

In seven video games, Gretzky tallied 12 factors, Lafleur 11 factors. In 4 video games, Perreault had 9 factors. The Soviet Union staff destroyed Workforce Canada within the last recreation by a rating of Eight-1.

Selecting Retirement

In 1984-85, a rocky relationship with former teammate-turned-head coach Jacques Lemaire drastically restricted Lafleur’s ice time. Lemaire was a defensive-minded coach and had insisted Lafleur modify his recreation to a degree the place he was ineffective. His guarantees to Lafleur to extend his ice time and to re-join the primary energy play unit by no means materialized.

Lafleur was at all times being featured magazines. When he retired, it was entrance web page information.

Shunned by Lemaire, a tragic and annoyed Lafleur requested to be traded. Habs’ normal supervisor Serge Savard denied the request fearing a public backlash had he traded one of many franchises’ most beloved gamers.

“You don’t commerce the columns of your temple,” GM Serge Savard advised a Montreal newspaper.

On Nov. 26, 1984, after struggling by way of 19 video games on a staff with a 13-Four-2 report and with no actual choices, Lafleur determined to retire, surprising Habs followers. At his press convention, Lafleur attributed his determination to a scarcity of motivation to proceed enjoying. After all, it was not the underlying cause. He had a lot extra nonetheless in him. Followers knew it, too.

Lafleur didn’t, nonetheless, file any retirement papers with the league. The truth is, he requested Habs administration to launch him from his contract to hunt employment with one other staff. They refused. Later, a disgruntled Lafleur admitted, “They wouldn’t let me play they usually wouldn’t let me go elsewhere.”

Retiring His Quantity

On Feb. 16, 1985, Lafleur had his jersey (10) raised to the rafters of the Discussion board, by no means to be worn once more by a member of the Canadiens. It was the sixth sweater quantity retired; the others had been: Jacques Plante (No. 1), Doug Harvey (No. 2), Jean Beliveau (No. Four), Howie Morenz (No. 7), Maurice Richard (No. 9) and Henri Richard (No. 16). A number of years later, after ready out the compulsory three years, he was inducted into the Hockey Corridor of Fame in 1988.

(supply Aude/Wikimedia)

Popping out of Retirement

Lafleur didn’t stop enjoying hockey altogether. He stayed in recreation form, enjoying with the Canadiens alumni staff for charity video games throughout Canada. In a kind of exhibition video games in opposition to the Edmonton Oilers in 1988, he caught the eye of Mark Messier who satisfied Rangers Common Supervisor Phil Esposito to present him one other shot.

Lafleur had already reached out to the Los Angeles Kings for an invite to their first coaching camp with newly acquired star, Wayne Gretzky. Rogie Vachon, the Kings’ normal supervisor was intrigued by Lafleur’s proposal, however in the end handed resulting from budgetary causes.

So when Esposito known as and supplied Lafleur the bait of enjoying along with his good associates Chris Nilan and Marcel Dionne and for head coach Michel Bergeron, it was a completed deal. Lafleur knew he was able to lace up the skates once more and return to the NHL.

Lafleur, at age 37 got here out of retirement, signed a one-year deal and put up 45 factors (18G, 27A) in 67 video games. He was one of many few remaining gamers within the league who didn’t put on a helmet.

The Montreal devoted embraced his return to the Discussion board on Feb Four, 1989 and chanted his identify all through the sport. Lafleur lit the lamp twice in a 7-5 loss and was named the sport’s first star. The Rangers completed atop the Patrick Division, however Lafleur missed many of the postseason with a knee damage.

The Los Angeles Kings reportedly then supplied Lafleur a $1 million contract. For context, that might have been the third highest contract in 1989-90, behind Lemieux ($2 million) and Gretzky ($1.72 million). Nevertheless, Lafleur wished to complete his hockey profession in Quebec the place it had began his profession and returned there, signing with the Nordiques as a free agent for a lot much less. Curiously, former Ranger coach Michel Bergeron was behind the bench for his last two seasons. These years had been crammed with accidents, although he put up a complete of 24 objectives in 98 video games.

Retiring Once more

Lafleur introduced his last retirement on the conclusion of the 1990-91 marketing campaign. Fittingly, his last recreation was a matchup between the Nordiques and the Canadiens.

Joe Sakic started his profession with the Quebec Nordiques in 1988-89, simply as Lafleur completed out his profession.

“I’m retiring as a result of I need to retire. I’m prepared,” stated Lafleur. “I’ll at all times remorse that I can’t maintain the good days with me eternally. That I can’t go on eternally scoring 50 objectives a season, that my toes don’t eternally have wings, that my muscle tissues by no means get drained. You hear the cheers and a light-weight shines so brightly it will possibly blind you eternally, it’s true. But in addition, so brightly it will possibly mild you the remainder of your days.”

“Play each recreation as if it’s your final one.” – Man Lafleur’s recommendation in his farewell speech after retiring for good with Quebec.

Although Lafleur agreed to an off-ice job with the Nordiques, he had not formally filed for retirement and was chosen by the Minnesota North Stars because the final decide within the 1991 NHL Growth Draft. The groups then struck a deal that allowed Lafleur to affix the Nordiques.

Honors

Lafleur was inducted into the Hockey Corridor of Fame in 1988 and the Canadian Sports activities Corridor of Fame in 1996. He’s considered one of solely three gamers (others: Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux) to have returned to the NHL after being inducted into the Hockey Corridor of Fame.

In 1980, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 2005 was made a Knight of the Nationwide Order of Quebec.

In 1998, he was ranked because the eleventh-best hockey participant to ever play the sport by The Hockey Information and in 2017, was named one of many 100 Best NHL Gamers by the NHL. In 1985, the Man Lafleur Award of Excellence was launched and is offered yearly to novice hockey gamers in Quebec who “finest mixed hockey performances with educational excellence.”

The NHL All-Star Weekend honored the league’s top-100 gamers of all time. (Larry Fisher/THW)

It says so much to be memorialized in a rustic that values hockey as its nationwide previous time and in a metropolis that thinks of the game as its satisfaction and pleasure. There’s a statue honoring Lafleur on the entrance to the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Leaving His Mark

It’s onerous to think about a extra thrilling proper winger than Lafleur within the late 70s. His mixture of pace, a fast launch and correct shot had been mesmerizing. The thunderous ovations heard within the Discussion board had been infectious.

As commanding a presence as he had on the ice, Lafleur was each bit as magnetic off it. He beloved to mingle with groups and followers in each metropolis. “In all of the years I’ve lined the Canadiens, I don’t suppose any one of many groups had extra rapport with or respect from followers within the different cities. The respect and response of out-of-town followers was virtually stunning, as in the event that they felt that Man belonged not solely to the Canadiens however largely to them as properly,” stated Montreal Gazette columnist Crimson Fisher.

Lafleur’s contribution to the Canadiens and to the sport of hockey is simple.

Man Lafleur, in Their Phrases

“He’s probably the most ‘goal-dangerous’ participant I’ve ever seen.” –Bruins’ Common Supervisor Harry Sinden“He’s probably the most full participant within the recreation right now.” –Jean Beliveau“Lafleur didn’t do what the Rocket might do, and that’s carry individuals on his again. Lafleur was too quick, too difficult, too inventive. Each he and Jean Beliveau had been winners, they usually and the Rocket might all get you the large purpose. When Beliveau would rating it, you’d say, ‘What else did you count on?’ When Lafleur would rating it, he’d pull you out of your seat. And pulled me out of my seat greater than another Canadien.” –Crimson Fisher, Sportswriter“It could be that all over the place else on the earth, the ascendance of Flower Energy started and ended within the sixties, Mr. Speaker, however in Montreal it started in 1971 and ended yesterday when Man Lafleur retired. That is the top of an important period, Mr. Speaker. I’m sure that the Home and your entire inhabitants of Canada will be part of me in wishing him good luck sooner or later and thanking him for the unforgettable moments he has given us.” –Lorne Nystrom, a Member of Parliament“Lafleur typifies what’s finest about this sport. He’s an artist on skates, creating scoring performs the way in which a painter places a vivid scene on a canvas with a brush. His begin is explosively fast and his stride is swifter than the others. He sees the place his opponents and teammates are and anticipates the place they are going to be.” –Invoice Libby, Sportswriter“He was unusual. I imply, any man who could be in his hockey uniform, skates tied tight, sweater on and a stick beside him at Four o’clock for an Eight o’clock recreation must be a little bit unusual. However on the ice he performed 100% on intuition and emotion.” –Steve Shutt, Teammate“I don’t imagine another participant has come down prior to now 12 years who might raise followers out of their seats like Rocket Richard. Man Lafleur did that. He was an important one, and to us within the NHL, he symbolized how the sport ought to be performed. We’re definitely going to overlook him.” –Brian O’Neill, NHL Government Vice-President at Lafleur’s retirement ceremony.

* initially printed in late 2017

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