Hockey great Jean Beliveau dies at 83
Published Tuesday, December 2, 2014 11:47PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 3, 2014 6:53AM EST
Jean Beliveau, one of the greatest players to ever skate for the Montreal Canadiens, has died at the age of 83.
"It is with a great deal of sadness that the Canadiens organization learned tonight the passing of Jean Beliveau," the NHL team tweeted late Tuesday night.
Beliveau stood out on the ice because of his size, earning him the nickname of Le Gros Bill. He had a powerful, sweeping stride and tremendous stick-handling skills -- a combination that earned him 10 Stanley Cups in 20 seasons.
Beliveau was born in Trois-Rivieres, Que., in 1931. When he was four years old his father gave him his first pair of skates. His family moved to Victoriaville when Beliveau was six and it wasn't long until he was playing shinny on the frozen rink in his backyard. Beliveau played most of his hockey on that rink until he was 12 and joined his school's team.
At the age of 15, his skill caught the eye of Canadiens general manager Frank Selke. Beliveau signed a contract saying he would join the Habs if he ever went professional.
That happened in the 1953-1954 NHL season, and by 1956 he won the Art Ross Memorial Trophy, given to the league's leading scorer, and the Hart Memorial Trophy, for the league's most valuable player.
After playing 20 seasons with the Habs, and earning the first Conn Smythe Trophy, Beliveau retired in 1971 as the team's all-time points leader and the league's all-time scoring leader. That fall, his No. 4 was retired, and the following year he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
After his playing days ended, Beliveau remained with the team as an executive, having his name etched on Lord Stanley's Cup another seven times.
When he retired, he established the Jean Beliveau Foundation, which was transferred to the Society for Disabled Children in 1993. In 1998 he became a Companion of the Order of Canada and in 2001 his name was added to Canada's Walk of Fame. He was named the honorary captain of 2010 Canadian men's Olympic Hockey Team.
Before passing, he said, "To this day, I thank God every night for giving me the talent to play professional sport."