Elmer Lach, a 14-season Montreal Canadiens veteran who played on the Punch Line with Maurice Richard and Toe Blake, died Saturday at the age of 97.
Lach's number, 16, was retired by the Montreal Canadiens in 2009 in an emotional ceremony at the Bell Centre.
Friends and fans paid their respects on social media.
It is with great sadness that the Canadiens have learned of the passing of Mr. Elmer Lach this morning in Montreal. He was 97 years old.— @CanadiensMTL
The Montreal Canadiens organization paid tribute by tweeting photos of Lach during his time on the Habs' Punch Line, in the 1940s.
Punch Line. pic.twitter.com/LQomJFqloY— @CanadiensMTL
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement on Saturday:
"The National Hockey League deeply mourns the passing of Elmer Lach — centre on Montreal's legendary 'Punch Line' with Toe Blake and Maurice Richard, owner of the sole assist on Richard's 50th goal in 50 games in 1944-45 and someone who, at 97 years of age, was just a few months younger than the League itself.
"The League sends heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of this three-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time scoring champion and 1945 Hart Trophy winner."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper extended his condolences on Twitter.
Laureen and I express our sincere condolences to the family of Elmer Lach, famous member of the Punch Line. #Habs— @pmharper
Fans reacted online to the news of the passing of the NHL's oldest living player.
@CanadiensMTL Very sad news. A tough year for our legends.— @TheRealRGM81
RIP Habs legend Elmer Lach. One of the greats of the game. pic.twitter.com/YALFEJ9EqO— @Pacific4_Justin
When Rocket (l)scored all 5 goals in game on March 23, 1944, Elmer Lach (m) got 4 assists and Toe Blake (r) got 5. pic.twitter.com/RvnJyezwvz— @NHLhistorygirl
RIP to NHL and Habs legend Elmer Lach. Grew up reading stories of his exploits, and by all accounts a wonderful gentleman.— @jsaquella
Check out CBC's 2009 documentary on Elmer Lach here