One night that winter, we were hit with a huge snow storm. I was taking the metro home like any other day shortly after 5pm. I was with a couple of my buddies.
Anyway we were on the platform waiting for the metro. Down the tunnel, I could see the metro train was already at Atwater station, one previous stop. The metro car makes it way to my stop at Guy-Concordia. It was basically empty. I recall thinking to myself that perhaps many elected to stay home that day.
The metro car’s doors open, and who do I see standing facing me as I boarded the metro car? Le Gros Bill himself, Monsieur Jean Béliveau. I was awestruck. For a second, I froze. I walk into the metro car. I make eye contact with Mr. Béliveau. I smile. He smiles. And I go stand next to him, not saying a word. I was in just total amazement. Although I never watched Mr. Béliveau play, as he retired from hockey when I was 1 year old, as a big Habs fan, I knew who this legend was.
So while i was standing besides this gentle giant, my buddies all went rushing in for empty seats like mice go after cheese. But I didn’t. I continued standing next to a legend. But my buddies kept calling me over. “Hey Mario, there’s a seat for you here”. Over and over they pestered me. And to myself I’m trying to tell them, “Hey guys, don’t you know who this man next to me is”?
One short stop later at Peel Metro station, I left my spot next to Mr. Béliveau, and I went to sit with my friends. I had to explain to them who that gentleman was.
At the time Mr. Béliveau was Vice-President of the Montreal Canadiens. And like many that day, he was taking the metro home from The Montreal Forum (Atwater Metro) due to the storm.
Mr. Béliveau disembarked at Berri-UQAM, making his way to the yellow line heading towards his home on the South Shore.
Fast forward to Year 2005. Mr. Jean Béliveau was putting the majority of his memorabilia up for auction. He was promoting the auction on a Sunday night Memorabilia radio show on what was then Team990 (now TSN690). And that night, the radio host was taking calls. So I decided to call.
I explained to Mr. Beliveau that I had the opportunity to shake his hand 12 years earlier but I didn’t, and that it was an honour for me to be speaking with him finally. Mr. Béliveau replies to me and says, “Sir, the pleasure is all mine”.
Just pure class.
I went on to ask him, what was the most prized memorabilia he was parting with from his auction. His answer? The 1971 Canadiens white jersey he last wore during the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals. His last Stanley Cup ever.
RIP Monsieur Béliveau.