Now Le Gros Bill is Gone

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Dec. 3) — When might there be a pause?

A dreadful fortnight in the hockey world continued late Tuesday when word came from Montreal that Hall–of–Famer and Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau had died. He was 83. This, after the deaths last week of Pat Quinn, Murray Oliver and Beliveau’s former teammate, Gilles Tremblay. And, with Gordie Howe’s prolonged struggle after a paralytic stroke just more than a month ago. The National Hockey League life cycle is upside–down at the moment. We all need a reprieve.

Beliveau’s health had slowly deteriorated in recent years after a progression of debilitating strokes and a battle — in early 2010 — with throat cancer. Though he won ten Stanley Cup titles with Montreal between 1956 and 1971, Le Gros Bill, as he was known, will best be remembered as one of the most elegant figures in hockey.

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FROM MY HOCKEY COLLECTION: THE LATE JEAN BELIVEAU ON THE COVER OF MONTREAL CANADIENS MEDIA GUIDES IN 1963–64 AND 1965–66.

And, how ironic it is that Beliveau would die on the anniversary of one of the darkest moments in Canadiens history. It was on Dec. 2, 1995 — at the Montreal Forum — that Detroit beat the Habs, 11–1, and goalie Patrick Roy told team president Ronald Corey (seated behind the bench) he had played his final game in a Montreal jersey. It was the worst home–ice defeat in club history and coach Mario Tremblay refused to pull the beleaguered Roy until he had yielded nine goals on 26 shots.

Less than a week later, Roy was traded to Colorado, where he won his third and fourth Stanley Cups with the Avalanche (in 1996 and 2001).

Beliveau capped his brilliant career by raising the Stanley Cup at old Chicago Stadium on May 18, 1971. The Canadiens had rebounded from a 2–0 series deficit to defeat the Blackhawks, 3–2, in Game 7. Beliveau announced his retirement shortly afterward. He was 39.

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ONE OF THE LAST PUBLISHED PHOTOS OF JEAN BELIVEAU — IN APRIL 2013.

LEAFS CONTINUE TO BLAZE

Playing as they did before their epic collapse at the end of last season, the Maple Leafs racked up another two points on Tuesday night, defeating the Dallas Stars at Air Canada Centre, 5-3 — a final count that flattered the visitors. Beginning with Tyler Bozak’s 12th goal of the season just 27 seconds after the opening face-off, it was all Leafs in this game. Toronto is now 4–0–1 since that 9–2 obliteration by Nashville at the ACC on Nov. 18. All four victories have been achieved at home.

I was at the game… as always, with my trusty NIKON:

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VIEWS ?? FROM SEC. 309, ROW 10 AT THE AIR CANADA CENTRE. NOT BAD.

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THE MAPLE LEAFS WERE PRETTY MUCH IN CRUISE CONTROL AFTER NAZEM KADRI’S 2–0 GOAL AT 15:16 OF THE OPENING PERIOD.

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REFEREE KEVIN POLLOCK STEPS BETWEEN DAVID CLARKSON OF THE LEAFS AND JORDAN BENN OF DALLAS (ABOVE) DURING SECOND–PERIOD ARGUMENT. POLLOCK THEN PULLS BENN AWAY FROM FURTHER TROUBLE (BELOW).

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IT WAS A “RUFF” NIGHT FOR LINDY AND THE BOYS.

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TYPICAL OF THE NIGHT FOR DALLAS: DOWN THREE GOALS AND TWO MEN.

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IT WAS ROBIN’S SECOND–EVER NHL GAME… MY SECOND IN FOUR NIGHTS.

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