This has been one of the most trying weeks for the Montréal Canadiens in recent times. Eight days ago, Habs legend Jean Béliveau died at the age of 83. Since the news of his death broke, the three remaining cities that hosted the Canadiens (Minnesota, Chicago, and Dallas) each took time before the game to honor the memory of Le Gros Bill. Sunday and Monday, Béliveau’s casket laid in state inside the Bell Centre for the public to see and say farewell to. As for the team itself, the Habs dropped three straight games; 2-1 to the Wild Wednesday in St. Paul, 4-3 to the Blackhawks Friday in Chicago, and 4-1 to the Stars the following night in Dallas. And then came last night: the first Canadiens home game since Béliveau’s death. Fittingly, a pregame tribute was presented to the 21,286 patrons that attended the game. The first montage featured images throughout Béliveau’s life projected onto the ice. Then both teams entered solemnly onto the ice. No Coldplay’s “Fix You” blasting from the speakers; no traditional announcement of “Mesdames et Messieurs, Ladies and Gentlemen, Accueilons nos Canadiens!” from Bell Centre public address announcer Michel Lacroix. The night belonged to Béliveau and his family, who sat near his traditional seat (Section 102, Row EE, Seat 1). That seat, draped in his famous #4 sweater, will remain vacant for the remainder of the season. Before a moment of silence was observed in honor of Jean Béliveau, a video montage set to Ginette Reno’s “Ceux Qui S’en Vont” was projected onto the rink.
Here’s the entire pregame ceremony courtesy of RDS:
In one of the most emotionally-charged games played at the Bell Centre, the Habs prevailed over the Vancouver Canucks, 3-1, with the game-winning goal scored by Tomas Plekanec with 4:14 left to go in the third period. After the game, when the team saluted the fans at center ice, the puck that Plekanec scored the game-winning goal with, was presented to Jean Béliveau’s wife, Elise. Sometimes it is hard to take the next step back towards normalcy after the death of a loved one. This game might be the first step of healing, but the healing process won’t truly start until after Jean Béliveau is laid to rest today.