Monday

Guy Lafleur


The man known as "The Flower" entered the National Hockey League in 1971 under perhaps the most intense pressure of any projected- superstar.

By 1971 the Montreal Canadiens had a long established history of French Canadian superstars. Names like Morenz, Richard and Beliveau had all set the standards, and with Beliveau retiring in 1971 Montreal was looking for a new hero to take the proverbial torch.

Enter Guy Lafleur.

After two outstanding seasons with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, one of which saw him score 130 goals and add 79 assists for a then-record total of 209 points, Montreal fans expected Lafleur to score at will in the NHL right from the get-go.

However it did not happen.

Lafleur had respectable totals in his rookie year, but respectable was not what management and fans had hoped for. With 29 goals and 64 points in his rookie season, people said "just wait for next year." Next year his totals slipped to 28 goals and 55 points, and the year after that 21 goals and 56 points. Meanwhile Marcel Dionne, another French Canadian player drafted 2nd behind Lafleur, was tearing up the league with Detroit.

In his fourth season " The Flower" blossomed into the scoring machine everyone knew he was capable of. Lafleur, who wore a helmet his first three years but removed it at the beginning of year four, erupted 53 goals and 119 points.

That was just the beginning of an era where the Canadiens were the dominant team in pro hockey, and Lafleur eclipsed Bobby Orr as the game's dominant player. He would go onto lead the league in scoring the next three years in a row, and recorded an amazing 6 consecutive years with at least 50 goals. Twice he was named as the NHL MVP and three times he was awarded the Pearson Trophy. He was the most exciting player in the second half on the 1970's, and helped lead the Habs to five Stanley Cup Championships, including four straight to end the decade.

His blazing speed and long flowing hair combined with his puck wizardry placed him first in Montreal Canadiens all time scoring and second on Montreal fan's all time favorite list, behind the immovable Rocket Richard, of course. He was one of the rare players that got you out of your seat almost every time he touched the puck. And to witness him score a goal was more often than not an event onto itself.

The Canadiens went through a transitionary period immediately following their dynasty at the end of the 1970s. The team became extremely focused on defensive hockey, and Lafleur's style did not fit in well. Injuries also slowed Lafleur.

After being at odds with the coaching staff, Guy decided to retire after 19 games in 1984-85.

Following the mandatory waiting period of three years, Guy was an obvious election into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.

After taking his place as a legend of hockey in hockey's famous shrine, Lafleur made a surprising return to hockey in 1988, first with the New York Rangers and later in the city where his hockey career started so many years ago with Quebec. Perhaps one of his finest moments in his comeback was his first game back at the Montreal Forum, where he played so brilliantly for 13 and a half seasons. After a boisterous reception, Lafleur had the best game of his second career, notching 2 goals.

Guy retired permanently at the end of the 1990-91 season after 1 year in New York and 2 years in Quebec City. In total he brought his numbers to 1126 games, 560 goals, 793 assists and 1353 points.

Almost all of those points were scored with a flare of excitement that few other men in National Hockey League history have ever delivered better than Guy "The Flower" Lafleur.

14 comments:

Patrick68 12:01 PM  

Joe, you seem to forget that Guy Lafleur's best game in his 2nd career was against the LA Kings in February 1989, the Rangers won 5-3, and Flower had 3 goals! Wayne Gretzky even had the ref delay the game so that Lafleur could enjoy the standing O the MSG fans gave him.

Anonymous,  3:56 PM  

LaFleur was one of the first players I ever connected with on Hockey Night in Canada when I was growing up. He could skate effortlessly and had a right wing shot that cannot be forgotten.

Easily my favorite player ever.

Anonymous,  6:35 AM  

LeFleur played and was great during the same period as my idol Bobby Clarke. Both had the hair although they were totall different players. Clarke was my role model on the ice growing up but we all wanted to skate down the ice and make the goals look as smooth as "the Flower" did.

Anonymous,  8:23 AM  

My all-time favorite athlete and I suspect that will never change. He was the most thrilling player to watch in sports and on one of the best teams in sports history. There's also something about the simplicity of his greatness. When he was announced he was permanently retiring, fans of the opposing team were shouting for him. Who else in sports ever got that kind of reception?

e.belanger2 8:12 AM  

guy was arguably the best hockey player of the 70s he would easily skate past 2-3 defensmen and no one could keep up with him he was at the time the fastest player in the league he made scoring look like a walk in the park

Anonymous,  1:37 PM  

Growing up in montreal in the 70s you had to be a hockey fan. They had such an incredible team on all levels. Lafleur was my absolute hero... he could score goals or pass to a teammate anytime and effortlessly. Guys like Shutt, Lemaire, Cournoyer were already awesome players and Lafleur was on an even higher level. Such a team will never be seen again

Anonymous,  9:45 PM  

I came of age with this team and Guy Lafleur even living out in Moose Jaw. I still have my number 10 Habs t-shirt and now my son wears it proudly.

Anonymous,  7:13 PM  

Truly great for five seasons. Could have been great for 15 seasons if he had taken care of himself and avoided the parties.

Anonymous,  3:05 PM  

Guy was the man! I'm a former Montrealer living in UK and can certify both he, Bobby Orr & the Great one were the best I have ever seen. Okay,I'm an old man now at 52 and with heart on sleeve will always think Bobby would have been greatest if not for injuries as no one could stop him w/o slashing at his knees, hence reason for all the ops. To be honest, i wish all of them were still playing. Chas

Anonymous,  10:39 AM  

I loved seeing Montreal playing while Guy Lafleur played and the pocket Rocket and Maurice Richard. I lived in Montreal for 21 years of my life and I miss going to hockey games because I live in Florida.

eleanor 10:46 AM  

I am also a former Montrealer and miss hockey games with Lafleur, Robinson, Rocket and Pocket Rocket. I also miss smoked meat restaurants which they don't have in this part of Florida.

Anonymous,  3:41 PM  

In all manner of speaking, Lafleur was arguably the real captain of the Habs during their 70s dynasty - on top of being their best player by leaps and bounds, he was a true leader by example and one of the best clutch players of all time (his career percentage of playoff-GWGs is about 24%, I think good for top-five among all players). In all effect, he should have been wearing the C, with Robinson, Cournoyer, and either Savard or Lemaire wearing the As.

Habs fan.,  7:01 AM  

Guy Lafleur was, without a doubt, the most exciting player in NHL history. The irony is that his long-time linemate, Jacques Lemaire, stifled Lafleur's exceptional speed and creativity with a major focus on defensive hockey as the Canadiens head coach at the time of Lafleur's first retirement. Lemaire was Lafleur's centre, more often than not, during the Canadiens' four-straight Stanley Cup wins in the '70s. One of the greatest teams ever.

Donny G.,  10:39 AM  

I am 57 now and having lived in Montreal all of my life to date, I grew up like all Montreal kids, a huge hockey fan and aspiring Habs wannabe. I enjoyed playing hockey everyday - winter, spring, summer, fall (on the local park ice, pond, road hockey, basement hockey, and later in the arenas). I loved to watch Saturday night NHL games with my family and saw all the greats of Les Canadiens dominate the league, Never have I seen a player as exciting when he touched the puck as number 10, Guy Lafleur! Pure hockey excitement, Guy was amazing! To date my favourite athlete in all sports and that includes other great favourite male athletes like The Rocket, Joe Montana, Casius Clay (Ali), Michael Jordan, Mark Spitz, Jack Nicklaus, Roger Federer, Michael Schumacher, Babe Ruth to name but a few. Merci Guy!
Guy! Guy! Guy!! Wow!

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