I started following Guy Lafleur’s hockey career in his rookie year with the Montreal Canadiens in 1971. To be honest, I didn’t know much about Lafleur, the Canadiens, or even the sport of hockey then, but I caught on quickly thanks to “The Flower”.
Growing up in the small town of Sooke, B.C., on Vancouver Island, my two closest friends at the time were staunch Montreal Canadien fans. My Dad was all about supporting the Toronto Maple Leafs, so being a bit of a rebel, I aligned myself with the team considered to be the biggest rival to the Leafs, just so I could tick off my Dad. (My son reminded me that what goes around comes around when in his teen years he became an Edmonton Oilers fan and rebelliously cheered against my new alliance with the Calgary Flames).
But I digress…
In my teen years, when other girls were swooning over Donnie Osmond, and the Jackson Five, I hoarded “Hockey Digest” magazines and clipped out pictures of my hockey hero to tape to my bedroom wall. I began memorizing his stats, counting down his goals and assists, and marking each milestone goal with a giggly celebration with my girlfriends at school the next day. The Canadiens were a dynasty in the 70’s with Frank and Peter Mahovlich, Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, Guy Lapointe, Serge Savard, Larry Robinson, and Henri Richard (the Pocket Rocket), to name a few of my favourite players on the team. Still, my sole, heartfelt obsession was with Guy Lafleur. I wore #10 on jerseys in tribute to him. I wasn’t a great athlete, but wearing his number made me try hard. My friends, and even a few teachers started to call me “Guy” as a nickname, knowing I was Lafleur’s greatest fan. My friend Tanya, wrote in my birthday card when I turned sixteen:
“Just think that if you were
As good as Guy Lafleur
I’d never see you at all,
Because you’d be in Montreal!”
All through high school, and into my university years, I continued to follow my hockey hero’s rise to super stardom. He was a powerhouse helping the Canadiens win four straight Stanley Cup Championships 1976 to 1979. He won MVP in 1977. As heroes go, he was simply the best!
In 1979, I married and moved to Calgary with my husband. Knowing I carried a fandom torch for Lafleur, my husband liked to tease me and align himself with any team that played against the Canadiens just to get a reaction from me. (Competitiveness is obviously strong in our family!) In 1985, when Lafleur retired from the Canadiens, I wrote a letter to the Calgary Herald newspaper thanking the hockey icon for his game play over those many years. It was published and I had the privilege of handing that letter to him in person when he played in an Oldtimer Exhibition game in Calgary in 1990. I felt like a giddy teenager when I asked him for an autograph and had my picture taken with him.
I will admit when Lafleur came out of retirement to play a few seasons more with the New York Rangers and the Quebec Nordiques from 1988 – 1991, I was a little disappointed. I did not care to see Lafleur in any other team jersey other than a Habs one. Without Lafleur on the Canadiens roster, my team alliance reluctantly shifted to the Calgary Flames. The 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and the Flames winning the Stanley Cup that 1988-1989 year had won me over to start supporting the home town team.
Today, like the rest of hockey fans across Canada, I am profoundly saddened to hear of the passing of Guy Lafleur. He was my first and last sports hero. Of all the hockey legends, past, present, and future, to me he will always be the greatest. I pray he came to know and love the Lord at some point in his stellar life, so he’s reaping rewards in heaven now.
Let me add my tribute and last cheer: “ Guy! Guy! Guy!” Rest in peace!