Manitoba

Jean Béliveau's death brings Winnipeg hockey great to tears

Winnipeg's own hockey legends, Joe Daley and Ab McDonald, fondly remembered one of the NHL's greatest ever players on Wednesday.

Jean Béliveau's death brings Winnipeg hockey great to tears

7 years ago
Duration 2:06
Winnipeg's own hockey legends, Joe Daley and Ab McDonald, fondly remembered one of the NHL's greatest ever players on Wednesday. 2:06

Winnipeg's own hockey legends, Joe Daley and Ab McDonald, fondly remembered one of the NHL's greatest ever players on Wednesday.

Montreal Canadiens icon Jean Béliveau died Tuesday night at age 83.

"He was just a great hockey player and a greater man," said Ab McDonald, a left winger who won three Stanley Cups alongside Béliveau with the Canadiens in the 1950s.

"He was big and strong and he had the fluid stride and stick handle and shoot, he was just unbelievable."

Ab McDonald points to Jean Béliveau in a photo of their 1960 Stanley Cup winning team. (Trevor Brine/CBC)
Joe Daley, in his Winnipeg hockey memorabilia shop on Wednesday, looks at photo of Jean Béliveau. (Brett Purdy/CBC)
Montreal Canadiens team captain Jean Beliveau holds the Stanley Cup in Chicago May 19, 1971, following the Canadiens' victory over the Blackhawks. (Canadian Press)
Joe Daley, a former NHL goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, also played in the World Hockey Association for his hometown Winnipeg Jets. (goaliesarchive.com)
Daley, nicknamed "The Holy Goalie," was just starting his NHL career when Béliveau was wrapping his up at the end of the 1970-71 NHL season.

But the two players did have their careers overlap from 1967 to 1971 and Daley said he learned a lot from Béliveau in those few years.

"I was fortunate enough to have encountered Mr. Béliveau at the end of his career as I was coming up and it's always been stated that he was not only a great player but a great man and probably that's been an understatement," he said.

"He was a gracious gentleman both on and off the ice."

Those sentiments were echoed by McDonald, who said Béliveau acted with class off the ice and fairness on it, never delivering a dirty hit to anyone.

"You don't run into too many guys like that around. I mean he's at the top of the list when it comes to that," he said.

Daley, who now runs a sports memorabilia store in Winnipeg, struggled to put into words the impact Béliveau had, then broke into tears.

"Trying to emulate [him], Jean Béliveau​ was … everything that's being said about him  it's almost too hard for me to realize that I'm that age in my life now where all the people that I idolized are starting to go," he said.

"It's a sad time in the world of sport and certainly hockey. My good friend Pat Quinn is gone and Joe [Gilles] Tremblay just went now Jean Béliveau, Murray Oliver and we know Gordie's not doing well."

Daley started his NHL career with Pittsburgh Penguins in 1967 and went on to play with the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings. He played the final seven seasons of his professional career in the World Hockey Association with his hometown Winnipeg Jets — helping lead them to three championships.

Ab McDonald, Ralph Backstrom and Bernie Geoffrion celebrate after Game 4 of the 1959 Stanley Cup finals on April 16, 1959. (legendsofhockey.net)
McDonald, whose NHL career began with the Canadiens in the 1957-58 season, went on to win three consecutive Stanley Cups with the team.

He then joined the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1960-61 season and won another Stanley Cup — his fourth straight one. He also went on to play with Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.

Like Daley, McDonald joined the WHA’s Jets in the league’s inaugural 1972-73 season. He was the team’s first-ever captain and scored the first goal for the Jets before retiring from his professional hockey career after the 1973-74 season.

McDonald missed seeing Béliveau by about an hour last winter. He went to Montreal for a card-signing session and Béliveau had been there the hour before.

McDonald said it was about three years ago when he last saw Béliveau in person.

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