Guy Lapointe, left, Ken Dryden, centre and Serge Savard of the Canadiens skate in game against the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden.
Photograph by: Steve Babineau, Getty Images
MONTREAL — When Saku Koivu was back in town with the Anaheim Ducks last month, there was some debate among Canadiens fans about whether the former Habs captain deserves to have his No. 11 retired one day.
My answer to that would be no, and even Koivu sounded like he knows it won’t happen.
“Yes, that would be amazing,” Koivu told reporters about the possibility of having his number retired after the Ducks lost 4-1 to the Canadiens on Oct. 24. “But when you look at the numbers that have been retired here, I think those players are in their own class. To be even mentioned among them is an honour, but to have my number there might be a little too much. But it’s nice to hear even if there is discussion about that.”
Arpon Basu of NHL.com described Koivu’s career with the Canadiens perfectly when he tweeted: “A fan born in 1990 would have been 3 last time #Habs won Cup, but 5 when Koivu debuted and 19 when he left. For him/her, Koivu was the #Habs”.
The 17 Canadiens who have had their numbers retired have two things in common: They won at least two Stanley Cups with the Habs and are in the Hall of Fame.
With that in mind, there is a number I would love to see the Canadiens retire: No. 5 for Guy Lapointe.
As part of the Canadiens’ Big Three on defence during the 1970s — along with Larry Robinson and Serge Savard — Lapointe won six Stanley Cups and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993, seven years after Savard and two years before Robinson. Lapointe still holds the record for most goals by a Canadiens defenceman in a season with 28 in 1974-75 and ranks second in career goals by a Habs defenceman with 166, trailing Robinson’s 197. Savard scored 100 goals with the Canadiens.
In Ken Dryden’s classic book, The Game, here’s how he described Lapointe:
“In the early and mid-1970s, except for Bobby Orr, Guy Lapointe was the best defenceman in the NHL,” wrote the Hall of Fame goaltender, who has come out with a 30th anniversary edition of the book, including a new chapter. “He was strong and powerful, an explosive skater with a hard, low shot, but what made him unique was the emotion he could bring to a game. During flat, lifeless stretches, uncalculated, he would suddenly erupt with enormous impatient fury, racing around the ice, daring and inspired on offence and defence, giving the game a new mood; turning it our way. It is a rare ability, and even as (Denis) Potvin and Robinson matured in mid-decade to push him onto second all-star teams and beyond, it was a skill that even they couldn’t match.”
But while Robinson’s No. 19 and Savard’s No. 18 hang from the rafters of the Bell Centre, Lapointe has not received the same honour. No. 5 was retired in honour of Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, but two other numbers have been retired for two players: No. 12 for Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer, and No. 16 for Henri Richard and Elmer Lach.
Why not the same for Lapointe?
That’s a question Lapointe’s daughter, Stephanie, has been asking herself.
“My autistic son (10-year-old Ryan), who knows everything about hockey, asked: ‘How come Grandpa’s not up there? He’s in the Hall of Fame and he’s got all these trophies,’ ” Stephanie said this week. “I was like: ‘You know what? I don’t have an answer for you.’ I went to bed that night and told myself: ‘This is not OK.’ It was the Big Three and why is my Dad not there?”
Stephanie, who runs her own human-resources consulting firm and lives in Île-Bizard, decided recently to start an online petition at guylapointe5.com to find out how many Canadiens fans agree that her father’s number should be retired, hoping to start a movement.
“I know he was lower key than Savard and Robinson, but the stats are there, he’s in the Hall of Fame, he’s still in hockey,” Stephanie, 38, said about her 65-year-old father, who is now the coordinator of amateur scouting for the Minnesota Wild. “I think he deserves to be up there.
“Off the ice he was a real prankster … and he’s still like that … he gets us all the time,” she added of her father, who earned the nickname Pointu. “I’m sure he lightened the mood in the locker room when it was stressful because he’s always joking around.”
Stephanie — who has two brothers, Guy Jr. and Jordan — wanted to make it clear her father has nothing to do with her online petition.
“He would not allow me to do this,” she said. “He’s so humble. I’ll be honest, I’ve been dodging his phone calls a bit because I’m not sure what he’s going to say. But it’s my cause … 100 per cent. I really want to be clear this is not him. I haven’t heard him complain, but I think it’s unfair. I just don’t understand. They were the Big Three … they played as three. My father was equally part of the Big Three … why is his jersey 30 years later not up? I don’t want to see him in a wheelchair like Butch (Bouchard), or what happened to Boom Boom or even Larry Robinson. His whole family was gone when they retired his jersey. What are they waiting for?”
Bouchard was 90 and in a wheelchair when his No. 3 was retired on Dec. 4, 2009 — he died three years later — while Geoffrion died at age 75 on March 11, 2006, only hours before the ceremony to retire his No. 5 at the Bell Centre.
On her Twitter account (RavenMontreal), Stephanie describes herself as a “Hockey Brat and Habs fan for life!”
“I was young (during her father’s playing career) and my parents were divorced at a very young age, so my Dad had to take my brother and I to practice,” Stephanie recalled. “We’d get on the ice with the guys … Guy Lafleur helped teach me how to skate with a chair. We had to go to practice.
“I used to get up early with my Dad and have spaghetti for breakfast before practice,” she added. “We were three kids — two boys — and I was the one who wanted to play hockey. My Dad was like, ‘Girls don’t play hockey.’”
Times have changed.
“I wish I was younger,” Stephanie said about the hockey available for girls today. “I figure skated instead, but I always wanted to play hockey against guys. I love hockey. It’s in my blood … it’s been part of my life since the day I was born.”
What does Stephanie think her father’s reaction would be if he ever does have his number retired?
“It would mean the world to him,” she said. “I remember seeing him at the Hall of Fame, not being able to finish his speech because he started crying. I never see my father cry … maybe twice in my whole life. He played so hard for these guys, he’s lost vision in one eye, he’s had a broken jaw, broken nose … he took a beating. To me, it’s all there … you’ve got all the ingredients and I think he should be reunited with the Big Three.”
What do you think?
To sign the online petition to get Guy Lapointe’s No. 5 retired, go to guylapointe5.com
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