Panache was the word for Guy Lafleur, a towering figure in Montreal hockey history who swooped down the suitable wing for the Canadiens within the Seventies, golden locks flowing behind, before freezing many a goaltender along with his deadly slapshot.
Lafleur, often described as a rock star on the N.H.L.’s most glamorous team of the era, died after three years of undergoing treatment for lung cancer, his sister Lise Lafleur announced on Friday. He was 70 years old.
In Lafleur’s prime, the Montreal Canadiens were arguably the best team in league history. They won 4 consecutive Stanley Cups from 1976 to 1979 with the 1976-77 team losing just eight of 80 games within the regular season. Fans still argue whether that version of the Canadiens or the one within the Nineteen Fifties that won five consecutive Cups is the very best.
There was never an argument over who was the best star on the Seventies Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. Not only was Lafleur a prolific goal-scorer, but he also played hockey the way in which French Canadian fans loved to see it played, with style. Fans across the N.H.L. knew him as The Flower, the literal translation of Lafleur, but in Quebec his nickname was the more fitting Le Démon Blond.
He combined the very best traits of his predecessors, the Quebec hockey icons Maurice (Rocket) Richard and Jean Béliveau. While Lafleur didn’t have Richard’s sheer power on his skates, he did have an assassin’s eyes as he neared the online with the puck on his stick. His grace and elegance were a better match with the stately Béliveau, as Lafleur was a gifted playmaker in addition to scorer.
For six consecutive seasons, from 1974-75 through 1979-80, Lafleur scored no less than 50 goals. He played 961 games for the Canadiens from 1971 to 1984, ending with 1,246 points, which continues to be the franchise record.
Lafleur’s playing days with the Canadiens didn’t end well. By 1984, his former linemate Jacques Lemaire was the top coach, they usually clashed over how the sport must be played. Lafleur retired early within the 1984-85 season but got here back 4 years later — after he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame — to play three more seasons with the Recent York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques.
“He was an incredible player,” said Scotty Bowman, who was the top coach of the Canadiens from 1971 to 1979. “I don’t know if any player in history had the pressure he did. When he got drafted by Montreal in ’71, that they had just won the Cup, Béliveau had just retired.
“Those were big shoes to fill, coming into Montreal to exchange a player that you would be able to’t replace.”
Lafleur was the lineal successor to Béliveau, and before him, Richard, because the Canadiens’ French superstar. This was no easy position in hockey-mad Montreal. Immediate success was demanded.
On top of that, Canadiens general manager Sam Pollock had used all of his infamous wiles to land Lafleur, who grew up within the small Quebec paper-mill town of Thurso. He decided the California Golden Seals were the very best bet to complete last within the 1970-71 season, thus getting the primary pick within the amateur draft. Pollock persuaded the Seals to trade the pick, and later, when it looked just like the Los Angeles Kings might fall below the Seals within the standings, Pollock traded veteran center Ralph Backstrom to Los Angeles. Backstrom ran up 27 points in 33 games, and the Kings stayed ahead of the Seals, which allowed Pollock to take Lafleur first overall.
However the Canadiens had a number of talent, and even a prodigy like Lafleur needed to earn his spot within the lineup. This didn’t mollify the fans, especially when two French Canadian players taken just after Lafleur within the 1971 draft, Marcel Dionne (Detroit Red Wings) and Richard Martin (Buffalo Sabres), began scoring immediately.
“In fact, everybody in Montreal was comparing Lafleur to each Dionne and Martin,” Bowman said. “They were playing regular minutes, and he wasn’t. He had rather a lot to beat. It took some time.
“He was a quiet guy — never complained about his lot. There was a variety of pressure on him, but he kept it to himself,” he said.
The breakthrough got here within the 1974-75 season, when he was paired with left-winger Steve Shutt and scored 53 goals. For much of the following 10 years, they were probably the most feared duos within the league.
Lafleur’s most famous goal got here on May 10, 1979, when the Canadiens were on the verge of losing their likelihood for a fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. With two minutes left within the third period, they were down 4-3 to the Boston Bruins within the seventh and deciding game of the Cup semifinal.
However the Bruins took that famous too-many-men penalty, after which got here the quintessential Lafleur goal with 74 seconds left. He picked up the puck in his own end, circled after which streaked up the suitable side. Lafleur sent the puck to Lemaire, who carried it into the Boston zone with Lafleur behind him. Lemaire left a drop pass, and Lafleur, in full flight along with his dirty-blond mane streaming, stepped right into a slapshot that left Boston goaltender Gilles Gilbert sprawled on his back.
The goal sent the sport into extra time, and Yvon Lambert scored to win it for the Canadiens. The Recent York Rangers were dispatched in five games, and the Canadiens, and Lafleur, had a fourth championship.