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Guy Lafleur, Dynamic Star of the Montreal Canadiens, Dies at 70


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Guy Lafleur, the dynamic, freewheeling right wing who helped lead the dynastic Montreal Canadiens to 5 Stanley Cup championships within the Nineteen Seventies, including 4 in a row, died on Friday in a suburb of Montreal. He was 70.

The National Hockey League said that the cause was cancer and that Lafleur had died in a palliative care center. A longtime cigarette smoker, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and had quadruple bypass surgery in 2019.

Lafleur, known to fans as “the Flower,” was a magician on the ice, a creative force who could deftly split defenses and whose offensive rushes prompted Montreal fans to chant, “Guy! Guy! Guy!”

He was the primary player in N.H.L. history to attain not less than 50 goals and 100 points in six consecutive seasons — a streak that was topped by the 136 points (56 goals and 80 assists) he totaled within the 1976-77 season.

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“He loved to shoot high on the glove side, and it was a dangerous shot, downright scary,” John Davidson, a former goalie for the Recent York Rangers, said in a phone interview on Friday. “When he got the puck on the blue line on the old Montreal Forum and headed up the ice, you might feel the frenzy. You’d feel the people make noise, and that noise would get louder and louder, and the people would stand, whether he scored or not.”

Lafleur amassed 560 goals and 793 assists over 17 seasons, 14 of them with the Canadiens, one with the Rangers and two with the Quebec Nordiques. Within the playoffs, he had 58 more goals and 76 assists.

He won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring thrice, and the Hart Memorial Trophy twice, because the N.H.L.’s most dear player. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada wrote on Twitter that Lafleur “was unlike anyone else on the ice,” adding, “His speed, skill and scoring were hard to imagine.”

Lafleur’s death comes every week after that of one other great scorer, Mike Bossy of the Recent York Islanders.

Guy Damien Lafleur was born on Sept. 20, 1951, in Thurso, Quebec, to Rejean and Pierette Lafleur. He was so enthralled with hockey as a boy that he would sneak into an area arena on weekday mornings and early on Sundays to get ice time when nobody else was around, in accordance with his Hockey Hall of Fame biography.

“Once I was a child, all we saw on TV was the Canadiens, and all I desired to be was Béliveau,” he told the Hall, referring to the longtime Canadiens star Jean Béliveau. He dreamed that the Canadiens would draft him.

He was spectacular in top-tier junior hockey, scoring 103 and 130 goals for the Quebec Ramparts within the 1969-70 and 1970-71 seasons, and the Canadiens chosen him with the No. 1 overall pick within the N.H.L. amateur draft. Lafleur said that in the event that they had not chosen him, he would have signed with the Nordiques, which were then within the rival World Hockey Association.

Lafleur joined a Montreal team that had won the Stanley Cup the season before but that had lost Béliveau to retirement and had hired a latest coach, Scotty Bowman. Lafleur began relatively slowly, scoring 29, 28 and 21 goals in his first three seasons before he broke out with 53 within the 1974-75 season.

Along with his blond hair flowing in the times before players routinely wore helmets, Lafleur became a star for a storied Montreal franchise, an innovator with a stick in his hands.

“He’s not the best player to play with because he’s all around the ice,” his teammate Steve Shutt once said. “He doesn’t know what he’s going to do, so how can I do know?”

Lafleur’s most electric seasons as a scorer, from 1974-75 to 1979-80, almost paralleled the 4 consecutive years that the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup, from 1976 to 1979. Through the 1976 playoffs, he was the topic of an alleged kidnap threat and guarded by security.

Within the 1978 Stanley Cup final, the Boston Bruins’ head coach, Don Cherry, ordered his players to boost their sticks up against Lafleur in an effort to discourage him. They slashed him, leading him to play along with his head covered in bandages, in accordance with an article on The Hockey Writers website. Lafleur nonetheless scored three goals and two assists, and the Canadiens won in six games.

After Lafleur scored 125 points within the 1979-80 season, his production began falling off. Nineteen games into the 1984-85 season, he abruptly retired after having scored only two goals and three assists. He was not getting together with the coach, Jacques Lemaire, who frequently benched him, or the overall manager, Serge Savard.

Lafleur stayed retired for the remainder of that season and for 3 more, but just weeks after being inducted into the Hall of Fame in September 1988, he signed to play for the Rangers. On the time, he told The Recent York Times that his last days with the Canadiens had been “the worst time of my life.”

“I had a alternative of ulcers at 33 or retiring,” he said.

After one season in Recent York, he signed with the Nordiques, who had joined the N.H.L. in 1979.

“It was a pleasing yr in exile in Recent York,” Lafleur told reporters when he announced his move to the Nordiques. “But now I’d prefer to end my profession in Quebec, where it began.”

He played two years with the Nordiques, with modest results, before retiring for good. He later returned to the Canadiens as a team ambassador.

He’s survived by his wife, Lise; his mother; his sons, Martin and Mark; 4 sisters; and a granddaughter.

In 2008, 4 bronze statues of great Canadiens — Lafleur, Béliveau, Howie Morenz and Maurice (Rocket) Richard — were unveiled on the Bell Centre, the team’s home.

“I’d fairly still be playing,” Lafleur said with fun, “than have a statue.”

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