CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

Jean Béliveau, hockey’s gentle giant

The Story

He earned the nickname Le Gros Bill for his size, but in his years with the Montreal Canadiens, Jean Béliveau was also a star player of skill and sportsmanship. He led the Montreal Canadiens to an unprecedented five straight Stanley Cups during the 1950s and 1960s. In an interview with CBC Midday's Kevin Newman, Béliveau credits his father, who told him to always do his best, for his successful career. beliveau

Medium: Television
Program: Midday
Broadcast Date: Oct. 31, 1994
Guest: Jean Béliveau
Hosts: Kevin Newman, Tina Srebotniak
Duration: 10:23

Did You know?

• Béliveau was born on Aug. 31, 1931, in Victoriaville, Que., the eldest of eight kids. He died at the age of 83, on Dec. 2, 2014. 


• At 6 foot 3, with a slapshot clocking over 150 km/h, Béliveau cut an imposing figure on the ice. When he signed his first contract with the Montreal Canadiens in 1953, the 22-year-old was the highest paid rookie in the league. He lived up to the hype, excelling in the game alongside some of hockey's greatest players including the Dickie Moore, "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, Jacques Plante and Maurice Richard.


• Béliveau cited his first Stanley Cup in 1956 as one of the greatest moments of his career. That was also the year Béliveau was named the first recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the playoffs. 


• Béliveau also named the night he scored his 500th goal with a hat-trick against the Minnesota North Stars on Feb. 11, 1971 as one of the best nights of his career.


• Béliveau signed with the Montreal Canadiens in Oct. 1953 and ended his on-ice career with the team on May 18, 1971. He maintained a relationship with the Canadiens as an corporate executive for the organization.

• Béliveau's retirement in 1971 was spurred from having a heart that was too small for his hulking body. He was described as being like a "Cadillac with a Volkswagen engine" and doctors were amazed that Béliveau could play as long as he did.

• Béliveau, who only had a grade 10 education, received an honorary doctorate from the Université de Moncton in 1972.

• He married Elise Couture, who Béliveau described as the only woman in his life, on June 27, 1953 in Quebec City. The couple have a daughter named Hélène.

• After the suicide of his son-in-law in Oct. 1989, Béliveau swore an oath to be around for his granddaughters.

• In 1994, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien asked Béliveau to become Governor General. Béliveau declined the offer in what he described as the hardest decision of his life. He did so in order to stay be close to his daughter and his granddaughters Myléne and Magalie.

• In August 1993, Béliveau retired from his job as the Senior VP of Corporate Affairs for the Montreal Canadiens organization.


• His autobiography Jean Béliveau: My Life in Hockey was published in 1994 by McClelland & Stewart Inc.

• In 2000, Béliveau successfully underwent treatment for a tumour in his neck.


• In June 2009, Béliveau was named honourary captain of Canada's 2010 men's Olympic hockey team. Despite his illustrious career in hockey, he never had the chance to represent Canada on the international stage. He retired the year before the 1972 Summit Series. Until the early 1980s, professional hockey players were not allowed to compete in international games.




Other Hockey more