Canadiens retire Larry Robinson's No. 19
Larry Robinson was cheered for several minutes when introduced Monday, and cheered for several more as the Montreal Canadiensretired his No. 19 to the rafters of the Bell Centre.
Robinson, one of the most beloved defenceman in franchise history, was the focus of the fans' affection as he became the 13th member of the Canadiens to have his sweater number honoured.
The emotional ceremony was held prior to Montreal's 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
Robinson received a prolonged standing ovation when he was introduced to the capacity crowd of 21,273, and even tried sitting down to halt the applause.
Robinson repeatedly tried to silence the fans, but they simply cheered louder and longer — for several more minutes, in fact.
"I want to thank are you, the greatest fans in the greatest city hockey has ever known," Robinson said. "Without you, I would not be here today.
"You warmly welcomed an anglophone farm boy from Marvelville and made him fall in love with this city."
Canadiens captain Saku Koivu and forwards Alex Kovalev and Christopher Higgins presented Robinson with his banner, helped him unfurl it, embraced him, and posed for photographers as the crowd applauded.
Robinson began to shed tears as his wife, Jeanette, and other family members gathered around him to watch the banner hoisted.
Nicknamed Big Bird
Robinson, 56, posted 208 goals and 750 assists for 958 points in 1,384 NHL games for the Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings from 1972 to 1992.
Nicknamed Big Bird, he was drafted 20th overall in 1971 by Montreal, where he played 17 seasons before signing with the Kings on July 26, 1989.
Robinson was a two-time winner of the Norris Trophy as top defenceman (1977, 1980), earning induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.
The Winchester, Ont., native was a six-time Stanley Cup champion with the Canadiens, capturing the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable playoff performer in 1978.
Yet most remarkable was his career rating of plus-730, including an astonishing plus-120 in 1976-77.
Bob Gainey's No. 23 will be the next number honoured by the Canadiens, on Feb. 23.
The other Canadiens to have their sweater numbers retired are: Jacques Plante (1); Doug Harvey (2); Jean Beliveau (4); Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion (5); Howie Morenz (7); Maurice (Rocket) Richard (9); Guy Lafleur (10); Yvan Cournoyer and Dickie Moore (12); Henri (Pocket Rocket) Richard (16); Serge Savard (18); Robinson (19); and Ken Dryden (29).
"I am humbled to know my name will forever be in their company," Robinson said.
With files from the Canadian Press