Jean Beliveau was my very first sports hero as a boy. In my home we had an antenna on top of the house to bring in the analog signal to watch TV. Reception wasn’t always great. On Saturday nights we had better reception from CHEX Peterborough than CBLT Toronto so I grew up with Danny Gallivan and Dick Irvin and life at the Forum.
In 1971 I knew who Jean Beliveau was, the captain of the Canadiens ! It was the year I clued in to being a fan. That was the year that rookie Ken Dryden stood on his head night after night till Jean Beliveau hoisted the cup at the end of the season. That image remained in my young mind.
The next year I went to a ScotiaBank hockey school and the spokesmen for the program was Jean Beliveau and Gordie Howe. The influence of Jean Beliveau was again instilled in my mind as I watched an interview after he was retired. I remember him saying “Watch out for numero dix, number 10.” He was soooo right !
Later that year I was in a tournament in Hawkesbury, Ontario. The family I was billeted with had tickets to the Saturday night game at the forum. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we got to ride the escalator down at the forum with Pete Mahovlich, he was out with a broken hand at the time. As we reached the bottom of the escalator Pete walked over to where Dick Irvin and Red Fisher were standing talking to Jean Beliveau in the lobby. The variance in height between the men was a shock because they all look the same height on TV. M. Beliveau looked so distinguished out of uniform in a long black coat with furry collar, white shirt, neck tie and leather gloves. It was quite a moment to be only steps from him.
I got to see Jean Beliveau again at a book signing at the Ottawa Citizen in 1994. His presence you could feel right through your skin. Didn’t get to shake his hand but still have the autographed copy of the book that I will treasure along with his memory.
I have always striven in my life to conduct myself professionally with respect and humility. I pride myself on being polite and a gentleman. Part of that is because I had a role model sports hero in Jean Beliveau.
Christopher Lee Grant