Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy died exactly a week apart. In some ways, the two men’s journey was nearly identical from start to finish.
I was lucky enough to attend Mike’s funeral last Thursday. It was a ceremony that was both sober and grandiose. Kind of like the man he was.
It was wonderful. From the testimonies of Mike’s daughters to the heartwarming homage given to him by his former teammate and friend Bryan Trottier, to the speeches of our TVA Sports colleagues Louis Jean and Éric Fichaud, it was all there.
Coming back, I kept thinking. Tuesday will be Guy Lafleur’s turn.
There is something that has always united these two men. Something difficult to explain.
Looking back at their careers there have been differences, but overall both men have made their mark on their era.
Both Mike and Guy made their QMJHL debut and quickly became the toughest players in the league. Guy led the Remparts to the Memorial Cup in 1971 while Mike was rain and shine with Laval National.
Both later made it to the NHL. It took Guy longer than Mike to make an impact with their respective teams, but when it happened, they were both superstars. Their way of scoring was very similar. I lose track of the goals I’ve seen them score, having flown over the right wing before beating the opposing goalkeeper on his right.
For Mike and Guy, however, personal success has never been more important than the team concept. I laughed on Thursday when Bryan Trottier said that on January 24, 1981, after Mike scored his 50th goal in his 50th game against my northerners, he had a chance to add a 51st to an empty net. Instead, he had decided to switch to Trottier who had threaded the needle. Back on the bench, the latter had asked Mike why he had not taken advantage of this opportunity to score the 51st goal.
Mike replied: “Because it was the right game to play.”
That’s it, Mike Bossy. And that was it too, Guy Lafleur.
I will always remember that during his farewell tour, which I had the chance to ride, everyone came to see him hoping he would score as many as possible. His teammates knew this and were constantly giving him the puck. Guy, as the ultimate teammate, often returned his favor.
Back on the bench, I said to him, “Boy, I’m here for you. You have to score! “
He was generous on his farewell tour as well.
LOVE AND FAMILY
Come to think of it, there was perhaps a noticeable difference between the two legends. Guy had a frankness that characterized him. He has never been ashamed to criticize his former team, the Canadiens. He did it because he deeply loved this organization.
In Mike’s case, I can assure you that when he saw the New York Islanders in trouble, he hit him, but he expressed it less publicly.
But that’s all. Besides being the heroes of their time, they were first and foremost devoted husbands and fathers of families. The two met their respective wives when playing in the youth classes.
They later had two children each, Mike was the father of two girls while Guy had two boys.
There were so many things that united the two men. Seeing them leave a week away is still unreal for me.
Echoes of Bergie
Stop the bleeding
Done, the Canadian will officially finish 32nd and last in the NHL. I can not believe. The most prestigious organization on the circuit, which came last. This is not normal and does not have to happen again. This city and its fans deserve better. It is imperative that Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton put their mark on this organization this summer. We have to stop the slide, and fast. No matter what, there are no strong enough excuses to explain such a bad season. In the end-of-season report we will certainly talk about the number of injuries. On the other hand, all the clubs have them and not all of them end up in the cellar. One thing is certain, though: this season has proved once again that the Habs have the best fans in the world. Accepting this mediocrity and continuing to pay a fortune to go see your favorite team is what we call unconditional love.
masters on board
Speaking of Hughes and Gorton, I hope they will prove that they are the captains of the boat from now on. For too many years we’ve been at the mercy of what veterans want, starting with Carey Price. It’s been a bit of the same thing recently with Shea Weber being allowed not to meet with the media, as well as letting it pass the fact that he wasn’t at the Bell Center for the Guy Lafleur homage. After all, he remains the team captain. I hope those days are over, that Hughes and Gorton have free rein and make the best decisions for the organization without fear of hurting the veterans’ egos.
Good pension Pietro
The Canadiens equipment manager, Pierre Gervais, is retiring. It’s fun to think back to the first time I met Pierre. He was my neighbor in Trois-Rivières and had gone to ask my family, first if he could clear my driveway and then if he could come and work for me with the Draveurs. To me too he had offered him his services for free! The rest is history. He then worked on Sherbrooke for a while before joining the Canadiens. In the shadows, he has been able to earn the respect of all the players. He has always remained very discreet about what he has witnessed internally. It’s something he learned at a young age and he always applied. Congratulations on your great career, Pierre. Now you can enjoy a well-deserved retirement.