In a Facebook post Friday morning, Guy’s sister Lise Lafleur posted that the five-time Stanley Cup winner had died.
“Guy I love you, you are done suffering we will miss you greatly….” the post reads. The cause of death was not immediately released. Lafleur was diagnosed with lung cancer.
The Montreal Canadiens said the entire organization is mourning the loss of the hockey giant and “will provide all the necessary support to the members of his family and his close circle of friends during this extremely difficult time.”
Team owner Geoff Molson described Lafleur as one of the greatest players in Habs’ history and “an extraordinary ambassador for our sport.”
“Guy Lafleur had an exceptional career and always remained simple, accessible, and close to the Habs and hockey fans in Quebec, Canada and around the world,” Molson said in a statement. “Throughout his career, he allowed us to experience great moments of collective pride.”
The Canadiens will honour Lafleur’s life and storied career with celebrations in the near future.
National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement that the entire league is in mourning and offered his condolences to his loved ones. He detailed how Lafleur became one of the most prolific players, saying that he was the “marquee performer” on one of the most star-studded lineups in the sport’s history.
Lafleur was born in Thurso, Que., on Sept. 20, 1951. A right winger with dynamic skating, powerful and precise shooting, Lafleur played 17 seasons in the NHL with three different organizations between 1971 and 1991.
With the Canadiens, the New York Rangers and the Quebec Nordiques, he notched up 560 goals and 1,353 points in 1,126 regular season games. He added 58 goals and 134 points in 128 playoff games.
Lafleur was picked first overall in the 1971 draft by Montreal after two seasons with the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
He played for the Habs from 1971 to 1984, where he tallied 518 goals and 728 assists for a total of 1,246 points in 961 games. At the end of his storied Montreal career, he became the all-time leading scorer for the franchise.
He was the first player in Canadiens’ history to score 100 points in a season and the first in NHL history to have six consecutive campaigns with at least 50 goals and 100 points.
Lafleur won five Stanley Cups with Montreal. He also won the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer in the NHL three times, the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player in the NHL twice, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 1977.
Lafleur, also known by his nicknames “The Flower” and “Le Démon Blond,” was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988, and then returned to play three more seasons with the New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques, NHL.com indicates.
In addition to his success in the NHL, Lafleur scored 18 points in 21 games with Canada in international competitions, and helped Canada win the 1976 Canada Cup.
He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1980 and his No. 10 was retired by the Canadiens in 1985, NHL.com reports.
ADORED HOCKEY STAR
In Quebec, Lafleur ranks among the most adored personalities in the province, along with Maurice Richard and Jean Béliveau, two other great French-speaking legends in the history of the Canadiens.
Global Montreal hockey analyst Brian Wilde detailed how the revered talent took a few seasons to rise up the ranks “and boy did Guy Lafleur ever find his way.”
It was something else to see Lafleur’s golden locks in the wind as he made his way across the ice, with fans chanting “Guy, Guy, Guy.”
“That slapshot was better than anyone’s in the day and that skating stride was better than anyone’s in the day,” Wilde said.
“I mean he was the very best.”
Aside from his legendary performance, Wilde described how Lafleur would say hi “all the time” when they crossed paths at the Bell Centre and the Forum in Montreal. The Flower was also always ready to speak his mind.
“He was a good ambassador, not the best ambassador because he was very open minded and he always said what was on his mind,” Wilde said. “But that’s what made him special too because I think it’s great when people speak his minds.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to Lafleur during a news conference Friday morning.
“He was a hero to so many of us,” Trudeau said. “I remember meeting him as a kid and being overwhelmed in a way that meeting presidents and Queens didn’t necessarily overwhelm me. I think we’re all going to be missing him dearly today and for many years to come.
“My thoughts are with his family.”
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante wrote on Twitter that the city “mourns the loss of this great man.”
“Thank you for everything, Guy,” she wrote.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet called Lafleur’s death “heartbreaking” and recalled how Quebecers would chant his name on Saturday nights when the Habs hit the ice.
Lafleur may be gone, but he is “immortal,” Blanchet wrote on Twitter, adding that his thoughts are with his family and loved ones.
Nearly 30 years after his playing career ended, Lafleur had health troubles. He learned on Sept. 25, 2019, that he had to undergo a quadruple coronary bypass.
Then on Nov. 28, he underwent an operation to remove the upper lobe of one of his lungs after the discovery of a cancerous spot.
On Oct. 7, 2020, it was announced the legendary hockey player was fighting against a recurrence of his cancer.
In early March 2021, Lafleur made public appearances as an ambassador for the University of Montreal Hospital Centre Foundation to raise funds for cancer research. During a virtual meeting with the media, Lafleur often appeared out of breath, sometimes very emotional, but also positive despite his serious health challenges.
“Fortunately, there are positives in the area of research and treatments. I’ve been on treatments for four, five months, and the mass has decreased by 30 per cent. So that’s what encourages me to continue,” he said at the time.
During the last NHL season, Lafleur was spotted at the Bell Centre when the Canadiens were on their way to the Stanley Cup final.
He made his last public appearances at the end of October 2021 in Quebec City, as part of two emotionally charged days when he attended an art unveiling documenting his famous career, and a jersey retirement ceremony with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
— with files from The Canadian Press