Jean Belliveau: An apreciation.

opinionandcommentBy James Smith

December 3, 2014



All the other kids wore the Rouge, Bleu, Blanc with nombre neuf. We were Anglos but like Roch Carrier’s book, all wanted to be The Rocket. That is all except me, I wanted to be like my dad’s friend, number four, Jean Beliveau. So on the outdoor rink I was number four.

My dad was a DJ in Montreal, and also did the colour commentary for, I think it was radio station CJAD, hockey, football, and the races at Blue Bonnets race track. Dad was always having us meet stars of one kind or another, and as a kid this really didn’t register.

Jean Beliveau

Always at the front of the game; always playing the puck; Jean Beliveau at his best.

That is except for hockey players. Hockey was different, hockey for me, like from most boys at the time, was what we lived for and I was so very lucky to meet most of the greats of the Hab’s dynasty of the late 50’s & early 60’s. The Rocket, the Pocket Rocket, Claud Prenevost, Boom-Boom Geoffrion, but Mr Beliveau was different, he and my dad were friends.

Several Sunday afternoons I got to go with my dad to the Forum, walk to the rafters into the gondola to watch a game. As a kid this was both terrifying and exciting being so high, watching the game, seeing my dad work on the radio and feeling part of the big people’s world. At the end of the game we’d go to the dressing room, my dad would do an interview or two,

Beliveau against the Bruins

He would come out of the curve in the rink with more than enough speed to overtake almost every hockey player in the league.

I’d get to meet my idols, shake their hands, and learn a new word or two in French. Not sure why but “peut-etre” seems to be the one I remember my dad using a lot. We would never leave without my dad and Mr Beliveau having a conversation, they always had a schtick they would do; he was Jean my day was Gene. Mr Beliveau would greet dad with a smile and “Hello Jean!” and my dad would reply “Bonjour Gene!”. They were both big men, and would shake hands an exchange a laugh, and as a little kid, I would look up in awe. My dad was friends with Jean Beliveau!

I do remember an exchange happing one time shopping in downtown Montreal with my parents. We ran into Mr Beliveau and people paused to look as the two men exchanged a few words. I shook Mr Beliveau’s hand while enquiring “comment allez vous?” Mr Beliveau then remarked about my red white and blue toque.

With my tiny bit of childhood French I informed the captain of the Montreal Canadiens it was a REAL Canadiens “chapeau rouge avec pom-pom bleu”. A little taken back he got a big grin and started to laugh and patted me on the shoulder, said a few more words to my parents, then bid us good-bye.

jean-beliveau at 80

Jean Beliveau at 80 – still the captain

Today with Mr Beliveau’s passing, I will remember Mr Beliveau a giant of a man, who had time for a little kid, and as a friend of my late father who towered over me on the streets of downtown Montreal, laughing.


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1 comment to Jean Belliveau: An apreciation.

  • Bob

    Well Said James. How wonderful it must have been to meet all the Canadian stars of my childhood.
    Beliveau always was one of my favourite players, and was a class act on and off the ice. He maintained this class right up to his passing.
    Not a good couple of months for the hockey icons of my youth…