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Wed, 3 Dec 2014 Canadiens @ Wild 7:00 PM RDS Sportsnet FS North TSN 690


habs_93

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More than twenty years passed between Jean Béliveau's last NHL game and the first NHL game I have a vague recollection of watching. I never saw a second of his career. But he was the first NHL player I was ever told stories about.


My mother grew up watching the Canadiens in a little coal mining town in Ohio with her great-grandmother Anna. That part of the continent is usually more interested to football, but her side of the family preferred the CBC and Radio-Canada hockey broadcasts that came in over the lake. Everyone called Anna "Babchi", a friendly Polish term for grandmother. Babchi came to the States before World War I from the then Austro-Hungarian Empire. On frozen ponds off the Odra river, she played something we'd probably recognize as shinny. When she arrived here she took to hockey. Following it first on radio and much later on television, she fell in love with one team. In the age of Morenz, Lalonde, and Vezina, she found the Canadiens.


Babchi loved Jean Béliveau. He had been her favourite player since before my mom was born. Every saturday night, they'd gather around the television and watch Hockey Night in Canada. "The man was a saint", she'd say. He did everything right. I remember hearing about how he and the team beat the Bruins, who were just as evil back then. And how he skated with such grace and power and drive, as if his actions were already written in stone and he was just fulfilling destiny.


Jean Béliveau lead the team to glory so much that it's hard for younger fans like me to comprehend. He did it in the sport's golden age, a time we'll never see again. The great names from that time pile up. But Jean Béliveau stands out. His stats and performances are impressive, but he was more impressive by far. He defined what it is to be a professional, a hockey player, and a member of society.


Jean Béliveau didn't just represent everything this team is about, he was the personification of it. Skill. Class. Team. Speed. Determination. Winning. And now he's gone. It's a loss that hurts, and it should hurt. It's been said that we as fans, or the team itself, have sometimes tried to speak too much of the past. Perhaps. Now, however, seems like a time that truly deserves it more than ever. Future generations will never be able to see or hear him in person. But if we do what we should, they'll still know him.


Rest in peace, M. Béliveau.


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Thank you, 93. I know how difficult it must have been to get this thread underway on such a tragic day. Thank you also for your personal story. Babchi sure knew her hockey.

An interesting little factoid. Jean Beliveau scored his 500th goal in Montreal against Minnesota.

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Well all I can say is that when Beliveau is called a saint is that I bought my horse to ride and become a saint myself. Some of us do but I haven't gotten there yet.

I rely on my Canadiens to get it done and when we do get it done ........well, so much the better. :)

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Wonderful tribute, habs_93. A fitting GDT.

It's been a sad day for many, not just Habs fans, as Beliveau meant so much to hockey but meant more to many beyond it.

I wonder if we'll ever again see even a shadow of his gracious humility and the universal respect he rightfully earned from so many.

I'd like to hope for a win tonight but I most just want to see a hard-played game, every shift for 60 minutes, in his memory.

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