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Thousands say goodbye to Beliveau at Montreal funeral

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Dec 10th, 2014

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A who’s who of the hockey and political worlds paid an emotional farewell on Wednesday to Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, whose death last week unleashed a national outpouring of grief.

Dickie Moore remembered his longtime teammate as a “great man.”

“It is a tremendous honour to stand here for my teammate and friend Jean Beliveau,” said Moore, the first person to deliver an eulogy at the emotional funeral. “Everyone has said so many wonderful words about him, words like strength, dedication, devotion and elegance.

“I was lucky to have been with Jean for many glorious years with the Canadiens, lucky to share amazing moments together, lucky to have him as a friend.

“Would you rather be good or lucky? I was lucky. He was good,” he said to chuckles from the congregation.

Moore was followed to the podium at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral by Yvan Cournoyer, one of six pallbearers at the sombre event.

Cournoyer spoke about Beliveau, 83, in revered tones as his “captain” and described what he called almost a father-son relationship with the late icon.

“Oh captain, my captain, bon voyage,” Cournoyer said, his voice choking.

Other teammates who delivered eulogies were Serge Savard and Ken Dryden, who recalled being Beliveau’s roommate toward the end of the 1970-71 season as the goaltender was breaking into the league.

“He treated everyone with respect,” Dryden told the service. “He said the right things and in the right way, in French and in English, because that’s what he believed and that’s what he was.

“He made every occasion better. He made everyone who was there feel that their town, their organization, their province, their country, their event mattered. That they mattered.”

Canadiens owner Geoff Molson also addressed the service and spoke of Beliveau as an athlete, a friend, a champion and an example to follow.

“He was a special man, a Jean Beliveau like no other,” he said.

Beliveau’s casket was draped with the flag of the Canadiens, the team with which he won 10 Stanley Cups as a player and another seven as a team executive.

The other designated pallbearers were Savard and former Canadiens players Phil Goyette, Guy Lafleur, Robert Rousseau and Jean-Guy Talbot.

Those attending the funeral included Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Gov. Gen. David Johnston, former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Brian Mulroney, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and ex-Quebec premiers Jean Charest and Bernard Landry.

Former NHLers included Mario Lemieux and Luc Robitaille.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also travelled to Montreal.

“He was just great to be around,” Bettman told reporters before the service. “And he’s going to be terribly missed.”

He was asked about suggestions that the Conn Smythe Trophy could eventually be named after Beliveau.

“We’ve been focused more on his passing and that loss and celebrating his life and I know at the appropriate time we’ll focus on what is a remembrance fitting for someone like Jean Beliveau,” Bettman said.

Harper described Beliveau as someone who transcended his sport.

“We’ve obviously lost a great citizen, somebody who was admired and respected by everybody everywhere in the country,” he said on his way into the service. “I certainly have admired Mr. Beliveau since I was a young boy.

“He was an individual who was great in his sport but ultimately even greater than his sport. He’s already part of the Hockey Hall of Fame and now he’s become part of the history of our country.”

A few hundred seats were reserved for fans on a first come, first served basis. Those who couldn’t get inside were able to watch the ceremony on giant screens nearby.

Montreal police, who have been wearing camouflage pants and red ballcaps in recent months to protest pension plan reforms, wore their regulation uniforms out of respect for Beliveau.

Beliveau entered the Hockey Hall of Fame the year after his retirement in 1971.

Thousands of people filed into the Bell Centre on Sunday and Monday to pay tribute to Beliveau and shake hands with his wife, Elise.

On Tuesday night, the Canadiens honoured him before their game against the Vancouver Canucks.

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