WATCH ABOVE: Before the Canadiens faced off against the Canucks Tuesday, a moving tribute to former Habs player Jean Béliveau was held with his family in attendance.
MONTREAL – In a manner befitting one of hockey’s greatest legends, the Montreal Canadiens put on an emotional pre-game ceremony Tuesday night to honour the late Jean Béliveau that brought the cheering crowd to its feet.
The 15-minute pre-game tribute to the longtime Canadiens captain began with the lights dimmed as Béliveau’s famous No. 4 flashed at centre ice and followed with the inscription: Jean Béliveau 1931-2014.
A sold out Bell Centre was then treated to a photo montage of his life and hockey career shown on the scoreboard screen. Another video tribute was shown as the players from both the Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks lined up at the blue lines.
This was the first Canadiens home game since Béliveau — a 10-time Stanley Cup-winning forward, affectionately known as Le Gros Bill — passed away last week at 83.
The moving display to one of the team’s most iconic players, caused his widow Élise Couture Béliveau to both weep and wave her arms in thanks to the cheering crowd.
A moment of silence was then observed followed by another long ovation for a man who spent 10 years as captain during a 20-year career with the Canadiens.
Béliveau’s No. 4 covered the back of his vacant seat behind the Canadiens bench next to his widow Élise who was comforted by their daughter Helene and granddaughters Magalie and Mylene.
The Bell Centre has been home to two days of public visitations where Béliveau’s casket has been on display at centre ice. Thousands of fans as well as past and current Canadiens players paid their respects to the hockey great and were greeted by his wife.
A funeral mass is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at Mary Queen of the World cathedral.
Pall bearers for the proceedings will be Cournoyer, Guy Lafleur and Béliveau’s former teammates Phil Goyette, Serge Savard, Bobby Rousseau and Jean-Guy Talbot.
Hockey fans took to Twitter to describe the touching ceremony:
*With files from the Canadian Press