The hockey world has taken a big hit with the loss of Canadiens great Jean Beliveau and former Canucks alumnus, coach, gm, cheerleader, etc. Pat Quinn, not to mention the decline in health of Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe.
A list of what these men accomplished on the ice alone would be enough to warrant the outpouring of emotion and tributes from fans, teammates, politicians and pretty much everyone else on the planet, or at least the northern hemisphere.
But there’s so much more to it than that.
Beliveau’s stats speak for themselves – 10 Stanley Cups, the longest serving captain in the rich tradition that is the Habs, two scoring championships, one playoff MVP and one league MVP title……
But what people talk about is the respect he commanded on and off the ice and the way he treated people, you know by the old rule of treating people how you want to be treated.
He, apparently, was asked twice to be governor-general of this great country of ours, and declined, graciously of course, as he was also a noted family man.
And Quinn too. Although he fell achingly short of a couple of Stanley Cups, heavy sigh, he helped guide Canada to gold at the Olympics and World Juniors, among numerous other accomplishments behind the bench and on the ice.
Again though, like No. 4 in Montreal, it’s the way he commanded respect and treated people off the ice that people can’t stop talking about.
As far as No. 9 in Detroit, a man who shares a birthday with yours truly and whom I’ve idolized for decades for his hockey prowess and status as a human being off the ice, I’ll save some of those thoughts for later, hopefully much later.
However, I think part of the emotional outpouring connected with Beliveau and Quinn is it speaks to a time when it was important not only to be a great leader and excel at hockey, but to do it with class and respect for the game and the people who love it.
These men embody that sentiment and deserve the accolades that go along with achieving all they’ve accomplished through grit and determination, while seemingly still being nice guys, well, maybe not always on the ice, but they also knew the difference between what’s acceptable behaviour during a game and what’s acceptable off the playing field.
Today’s superstar athletes? Maybe not so much.
Too, too often the headlines are about athletes behaving badly, or even criminally, or even just displaying a lack of respect for the game or the fans and kids who look up to them.
Now, to be fair, we’re not talking about a level playing field here, so to speak. The men I’m writing about today didn’t earn outrageous salaries or have to play under the media frenzy and social media mayhem of today that magnifies every misstep exponentially.
And there are plenty of classy athletes out there still today that are also good, decent people that we will one day write glowingly about.
Plus no one is saying that Beliveau and Quinn were perfect by any means, not to mention they played at a time when the game was more violent when compared with today’s standards, which, thanks to modern technology, dissects and debates every hit for intent, malice, afterthought and suspensionability.
However, what we are left with is the legacy of men who reached the pinnacle of success in our national sport and did it with class and dignity and they deserve our admiration.
And may their story inspire all of us to do our best in our chosen fields and personal lives, all the while doing it with a touch of grace and style and respect for our fellow human beings.