Fans remember and pay tribute to Guy Lafleur ahead of Canadiens-Senators game

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OTTAWA — There was an abundance of Montreal Canadiens jerseys at the Canadian Tire Center on Saturday night, and while most were named after Price, Suzuki and Caufield, many were thinking Guy Lafleur.

OTTAWA — There was an abundance of Montreal Canadiens jerseys at the Canadian Tire Center on Saturday night, and while most were named after Price, Suzuki and Caufield, many were thinking Guy Lafleur.

The Canadiens legend died Friday at the age of 70 and Canadiens fans were mourning the loss of what many called the last member of France’s greatest line.

For many French-Canadian hockey fans, the names Jean Béliveau, Maurice Richard and Guy Lafleur symbolize hockey royalty. While all hold a special place in Canadiens history, most agreed there will never be another player with Lafleur’s style.

Neil Khan grew up in Montreal and loved watching Lafleur. His parents had emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago in the 1960s and quickly became hockey fans.

Khan wore a Lafleur jersey and has fond memories of his favorite player scoring against Boston in Game 7 of the 1979 semi-final series.

“Lafleur was my guy,” said Khan, who now lives in Toronto. “I had heard he was sick, but it’s very unfortunate.”

Khan picked up an autographed photo of Lafleur, Beliveau and Richard a few years ago and says it will take on even more meaning now.

Alain Mercier was one of the lucky ones who got to see Lafleur work his magic long before he became a household name.

Mercier lived in Buckingham, Quebec, just a 15-minute drive from Lafleur’s hometown of Thurso, Quebec, and often saw him skating at the Thurso Arena when Lafleur was just a teenager.

The Mercier family had become friends with the Lafleur family and over the years they always enjoyed visiting the hockey superstar.

“It’s very sad news,” said Mercier. “He was such a generous guy and always ready to help in any way he could.”

Mercier recalled how locals reached out to Lafleur for various fundraisers and he always found a way to support the community.

He also recalled how Lafleur was someone who liked to have a good time, but was also ready to speak his mind.

“If he had something to say, he would just say it,” Mercier said. “I don’t think you’ll ever find another Guy Lafleur on or off the ice. He was special.

Sisters Tammy and Jessika Lacroix already had tickets to Saturday’s game before news of Lafleur’s passing became public, but they said it was special to see the Canadiens play that night.

The two grew up in the former municipality of Masson-Angers, just down the road from Lafleur’s hometown, and heard of the legend’s prowess on the ice.

“We didn’t really see him play, but he was a legend,” Tammy Lacroix said. “Everyone was talking about him and since we lived so close to his hometown, you knew he was special. That’s such sad news.”

The sisters had heard that the Senators were planning to honor Lafleur and with so many Montreal fans in the building, they expected it to be special.

Before the puck drop, the Senators showed video clips of Lafleur, which led to a chant of “Guy, Guy,” as many rose to pay their respects to No. 10. The Senators also honored Lafleur with a minute of silence.

“It’s a great loss,” said Daniel Desormeaux. “He was so young. He was truly something special on the ice.

Desormeaux wore a Senators jersey, but said that before Ottawa joined the NHL, most fans in the region cheered on Montreal and those of a certain age would certainly have grown up watching the likes of Lafleur, Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 23, 2022.

Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press

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