Jean Béliveau

Biography of Jean Arthur Béliveau

Jean Béliveau was born in Trois-Rivières on August 31, 1931, to Arthur and Laurette Béliveau. He was the oldest of eight children. All his life, ‘le Grand Jean’ will remember the teachings of his father, a man who possessed extraordinary strength of character.

His family having moved to Victoriaville in the heart of the Bois-Francs region, Béliveau learned the basics of hockey, like thousands of Quebecers at that time, on an outdoor skating rink with the neighbourhood kids. They all dreamed of playing like Maurice Richard and to wear the uniform of the Canadiens. His natural abilities immediately stood out, and being physically imposing gave him an advantage over his friends.

Young Béliveau began his junior career with the Tigers of Victoriaville of Quebec’s Junior Hockey League. Following his father’s decision, he then joined the Quebec Citadelles where he became a big star.

At the end of his junior career, “Gros Bill” had to make a choice for his future career: Montreal or Quebec? The Canadiens or the As? “Grand Jean” was favourably disposed for Quebec. Béliveau therefore chose the Junior League and the As, with whom he had two phenomenal seasons. He was the king of Quebec.

On June 27, 1953, Jean Béliveau married Élise Couture. The couple had a daughter, Hélène. During their honeymoon, the bridegroom told Élise that it was now time to go to Montreal.

On October 3, at the age of 22, Béliveau put his signature at the bottom of a five-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens, a contract valued at $105,000. It had never been seen before in hockey!

“Gros Bill” would sample the joys of ultimate victory at his third season. He was an important part of this fabulous team that won five consecutive Stanley Cups and participated in seven consecutive finals.

In 1956, Béliveau obtained the status of star player. Champion scorer of the circuit with 88 points, 47 goals, he added to his Art-Ross Memorial Trophy, the Hart Memorial Trophy awarded to the most outstanding player of the National League. He became an icon all over French Canada.

The early 1960s, after the departure of Maurice Richard, was a difficult time for Béliveau. However, the second part of the decade was absolutely wonderful. The team succeeded in winning four Stanley cup in five years.

On February 11, 1971, against the Minnesota North Stars, he scored a hat trick that enabled him to reach 500 goals. Only Maurice Richard had already achieved this feat. He crowned his career with a tenth Stanley Cup.

Béliveau retired after having scored 507 goals in 1125 regular-season games and had 1219 points, the second all-time total in the history of the Canadiens. He won one Art-Ross Memorial Trophy, two Hart Memorial Trophies and one Conn-Smythe.

Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, his number 4 was retired at the beginning of the 1971 season.

When he retired, Béliveau moved to the second floor of the Forum. He occupied the position of Vice-President of Social Affairs and his main responsibility was to maintain the link between the Canadiens and the fans. He devoted himself for 22 years, until August 31, 1993.

The following year, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien offered Jean Béliveau the position of Governor General of Canada, an offer that he refused for personal reasons.

At the turn of the millennium, after a successful fight against cancer, Jean Béliveau was honoured in many different ways: Honorary doctorates, Order of Canada, National Order of Quebec, as well as a stamp and a coin that bear his effigy. In addition, there are two bronze statues, one in front of the arena that bears his name in Longueuil and one at Place du Centenaire in the vicinity of the Canadiens’ present home.

Over the past several years, through the trials of his state of health, Jean Béliveau will have known during his lifetime how much he was appreciated and admired by all his fellow citizens from sea to sea.

On December 2, 2014, “Grand Jean” passed away leaving in mourning his wife Élise, his daughter Hélène, and his grand-daughters Mylène and Magalie. He was one of the great leaders in the history of the Canadiens and will remain, beyond time, a symbol of honour, loyalty, dedication, and great class for all Quebecers, for all Canadians.

A remarkable career, an exemplary life

1950-1951

First Team All-Star QSHL

1951-1952

Alexander Trophy as champion of semi-professional teams

1952-1953

The President’s Cup as champion of the QSHL series. First NHL All-Star Team

1954-1955

First NHL All-Star Team

1955-1956

First Stanley Cup. Art Ross and Hart Memorial Trophies. First NHL All-Star Team

1956-1957

Stanley Cup (2). First NHL All-Star Team

1957-1958

Stanley Cup (3). Second NHL All-Star Team

1958-1959

Stanley Cup (4). First NHL All-Star Team

1959-1960

Stanley Cup (5). First NHL All-Star Team

1960-1961

Named Captain of the Canadiens. First NHL All-Star Team

1963-1964

Hart Memorial Trophy. Second NHL All-Star Team

1964-1965

Stanley Cup (6). Conn Smythe Trophy

1965-1966

Stanley Cup (7). Second NHL All-Star Team

1967-1968

Stanley Cup (8)

1968-1969

Stanley Cup (9). Second NHL All-Star Team

1969

Officer of the Order of Canada

1970-1971

Stanley Cup (10)

1971

His number 4 was retired. Officer of the Order of Canada

1972

Hall of Fame

1972

Doctorate Honoris Causa – Moncton University

1986

Member of the Académie des Grands Montréalais

1988

Knight of the Ordre national du Québec

1992

Sports Hall of Fame

1993

Personality of the Year (La Presse)

1998

Companion of the Order of Canada

1999

Doctorate Honoris Causa – University of Ottawa

2001

Doctorate Honoris Causa – St-Mary’s University

2006

Officer of the National Order of Quebec

2006

Doctorate Honoris Causa – McGill University

2008

Doctorate Honoris Causa – Laval University

2008

Montreal Jewish Hall of Fame; the first non-Jew to deserve this honour

2009

Doctorate Honoris Causa – Concordia University

2009

Doctorate Honoris Causa – Ryerson University

2010

Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec

Statistics

Regular Seasons

Statistics

Playoff Games

CHRISTMAS LETTER

FROM A FATHER TO HIS SON

It was in 1966 or 1967, I could not swear to it. My father had offered me my very first brand new hockey stick, a straight blade CCM Custom Pro, treated with "Resilobound", identical to the one of my idol, Jean Béliveau. For the traditional picture, I took the same pose as Béliveau had on the hockey card which I used as a bookmark for my Bob Morane books.

The following year, having grown a couple of inches, I had to resign myself to give up my hockey stick. My big brother Robert handed me down his old Northland, a pretty decent stick, but nothing compared to the CCM that I hung on the wall of my room, making myself believe that Jean Béliveau himself had given it to me after a victory over the Maple Leafs.

I was never able to part with it. Over the past thirty-five years, I carted it around from left to right, from attic to attic, whenever I moved. Every time I held it in my hands, I relived the Christmas when I was eight years old and the games that followed on the Saint Henry Park rink. And I told myself that some day I would give my old CCM to my son.

When I learned that you would never walk, or eat by yourself, or utter little more than a dozen words, I’m not going to lie to you, my whole world collapsed. I had so many dreams for you. I could see us, you and me, side by side, carrying out the work that grandpa started so long ago in our small family business. Better yet, I imagined you at the head of a huge conglomerate with international ramifications, a true business celebrity admired by all, my son the visionary entrepreneur, my son the respected financier, my son… period. Since then, I have spent so many sleepless nights worrying and dreading what the future had in store for you, all the terrible battles you would have to face because of your disability, all these doors that would close on your wish of carving out a place in the sun for yourself. Sure I’m tired. Yet you are my beloved son, my gift from heaven, and I am so proud of you.

I am offering you my old CCM. I know you will never be able to use it, but you are the only one to whom I want to offer this part of myself, of my childhood dreams, of Jean Béliveau and of the Christmas when I was eight years old.

Merry Christmas my little man, my precious child.

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