Placeholder while article actions load

Guy Lafleur, the swift-skating Canadiens winger whose scoring prowess helped preserve Montreal’s National Hockey League dynasty throughout the 1970s, has died at 70.

His sister Lise announced his death in a Facebook post on Friday but did not share additional details. His death was also announced on Twitter by the Hockey Hall of Fame and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said Mr. Lafleur “inspired countless Quebecers, Canadians, and hockey fans around the world.”

Mr. Lafleur had quadruple bypass surgery in 2019, and doctors later removed part of a lung. He had a recurrence of lung cancer in 2020.

Nicknamed “The Flower,” a translation of his surname from the French, and “le Démon Blond” (the Blond Demon) by French-speaking fans, Guy Lafleur (pronounced GEE — with a hard G — la-FLURE) led the Habs to Stanley Cup victories in 1973 and the four straight years from 1976 to 1979.

During his 14 years in Montreal, his up-ice rushes brought fans to their feet as they chanted “Guy, Guy, Guy!” He won two NHL most valuable player awards, in 1977 and 1978, and the 1977 playoff MVP award, and he produced more points than previous Montreal superstars Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Henri Richard and his childhood idol, Jean Béliveau.

The parade of triumphs that made up his heyday was, however, interrupted by an alleged plot to kidnap him during the 1976 playoffs, a threat reported to authorities by an informant in a major bank robbery investigation in Montreal.

Mr. Lafleur was well protected by security, but his play suffered and — with the media and public unaware of the situation — he was subject to severe criticism. Nevertheless, the Canadiens plowed through the playoffs and swept the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, the Philadelphia Flyers, with Mr. Lafleur scoring the Cup-clinching goal in Game 4.

“If only people knew how those events tortured Guy, they would have been less unjust toward him,” Mr. Lafleur’s wife, Lise, told Montreal’s La Presse after the plot became public. “It’s unbelievable how Guy was affected by the threats, so much so that he lost about a dozen pounds in three weeks.”

The 1976 playoffs weren’t Mr. Lafleur’s first encounter with criticism from the demanding Montreal fans and media.

His selection as the league’s No. 1 draft choice in 1971 came with high expectations, especially when the No. 2 pick, Marcel Dionne, achieved stardom so quickly with Detroit’s Red Wings. The public disappointment was loud and clear. It wasn’t until 1974 — when Mr. Lafleur ditched his helmet and let his hair down — that he began to play like a superstar. It was the first of six consecutive seasons in which he produced at least 50 goals and 100 points (goals, plus assists). He led the NHL with 60 goals in 1977-1978 and in points two other times.

Mike Bossy, Islanders’ prolific Hall of Fame goal scorer, dies at 65

Montreal’s winning ways in the 1970s were the cause of frequent celebration, and Mr. Lafleur partook of postgame nightlife. In 1981, after staying out with teammates until dawn, he fell asleep at the wheel of his Cadillac and nearly died in a crash, losing part of his right earlobe.

“I decided to slow down after that,” he told United Press International in 1985. “I realized that my family was more important to me than downtown nightlife. The crowd doesn’t give a crap as long as you bring the money in. When trouble comes, it’s your family that supports you.”

One of Mr. Lafleur’s most memorable off-ice moments came after winning the 1978 Stanley Cup. Long before it became standard practice for each of the winning players to get a day of his own with the coveted trophy, Mr. Lafleur smuggled it from a photo shoot to his hometown of Thurso, Quebec, to show off to his friends.

“I said to Claude [the Cup’s handler], ‘Give me your keys, I need to put something in your car,’ ” Mr. Lafleur told the Ottawa Citizen in 2017. “He did, and I sent my friend across the street to make a copy [of the car key]. I told my friend, after the mingle and after Claude brings the Cup back to his trunk, you steal the car.”

Guy-Joseph-Damien Lafleur, the son of a welder, was born in Thurso on Sept. 20, 1951. Mr. Lafleur thrived in youth hockey leagues before being invited to Quebec City to play in the elite junior levels at 14. As a prelude to his NHL career, he led the Quebec Remparts to a Memorial Cup victory 1971 in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

In 1973, he married Lise Bare. They had two sons, Martin and Mark. Mark Lafleur had several run-ins with the law over the years, including charges of assault and breaking and entering, which led to widespread media coverage in Canada. In 2008, Mr. Lafleur was charged with giving contradicting testimony in a case brought against his son. Mr. Lafleur was acquitted on appeal, but he claimed that the charges had damaged his reputation and resulted in lost earnings. He sued unsuccessfully for damages.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Mr. Lafleur retired from the Canadiens in 1985, at age 33, and three years later was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Like fellow Hall of Famer Gordie Howe before him, Mr. Lafleur came out of retirement, briefly playing for the New York Rangers and later for the Quebec Nordiques (a Canadiens rival). At that point, Mr. Lafleur was one of a few skaters who still played without a helmet; the NHL’s 1979 helmet rule granted exemptions to those who had played in the league before the rule went into effect.

In 2017, the NHL named Mr. Lafleur one of the 100 greatest players in hockey history. He was also among the sport’s most popular players, yet he never sought to be captain of his team. He preferred, he said, having a sense of freedom on the ice similar to what he felt when flying helicopters.

“When I was on the ice, I felt like a free man,” Mr. Lafleur told Sports Illustrated in 2000. “With flying, it’s the same thing. When I’m flying by myself on an afternoon, I feel free.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *