MONTREAL – Guy Lapointe’s resume is ladened with one accomplishment after another, but he insists that seeing his No. 5 jersey raised to the rafters at the Bell Centre in 2014-15 might just be his crowning achievement.
On Thursday, Lapointe was joined by fellow “Big Three” members Larry Robinson and Serge Savard at the Canadiens’ Hall of Fame to formally announce that the six-time Stanley Cup champion would become the 18th player in franchise history to have his jersey retired alongside those of the club’s greatest legends.
“It’s extraordinary. You look at the names that I’m about to join up there – Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Guy Lafleur, Larry [Robinson], Serge [Savard]. I could go on and on. You were just happy looking at them, seeing them up there,” offered Lapointe, who played 12 full seasons with the Canadiens between 1970 and 1982, and still holds the team record for most goals in a season by a defenseman (28), and most goals by a rookie rearguard (15).
“I have to admit with all sincerity that I never thought that one day my jersey would be retired alongside them. It never crossed my mind, even when Geoff Molson came by with Rejean [Houle] to let me know,” added Lapointe, who claimed hockey’s top prize in Montreal in 1971 and 1973 before contributing to four straight championships between 1976 and 1979. “I thought they were getting something organized for Canadiens alumni members. It was a terrific surprise. It’s really special for both me and my family.”
If Lapointe was all smiles on Thursday, so were Robinson and Savard, who both eagerly anticipated the opportunity to welcome their long-time friend and teammate into a rather exclusive club.
“Guy could hold his own against anybody. He could play in all situations. He could play a lot of minutes. He was just a great player. It’s one of the reasons why he’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and one of the reasons why it’s very fitting to have his sweater up there. I’m glad that I got there first because I finally beat him at something,” mentioned Robinson, who, like Lapointe, also won six Stanley Cup titles as a member of the Canadiens.
“This is great honor for a great hockey player. It’s one that’s very merited,” continued Robinson, before lauding Lapointe’s infamous pranks and practical jokes, many of which he fell victim to over the course of his career in La Belle Province. “I just wish that I didn’t have to play all of those years with Guy, then I wouldn’t have had my underwear cut, Vaseline on my windshield, and many other things. It’s a great honor, and I’m proud to be able to share it with him.”
Savard, too, couldn’t help but reminisce about memories past with Lapointe & Co. One memory in particular stood out for the 68-year-old Hockey Hall of Famer.
“I remember that Guy was coming up at a time when the Montreal Voyageurs were playing at the Forum and the Canadiens decided to bring Guy out for a practice with us. We were skating together around the ice and Gump Worsley was our goaltender at the time,” recalled Savard, who also skated alongside Lapointe as a member of Team Canada during the Summit Series back in 1972. “I said to Guy – “Guy, at practice Gump Worsley really likes it when you shoot up high because he wants to work on stopping shots headed for the top corner.” Guy skated around quietly and fired a slap shot at Gump. He probably had one of the better shots on the team along with Larry. He shot it right for the top shelf. Gump took off his glove and blocker and went after Guy around the rink. That’s how Guy was initiated as a member of the Canadiens in the early 70s.”
Over four decades later, it’s safe to say Lapointe has forgiven Savard. The 16-year NHL veteran has high praise for a man that he believes played an integral part in helping him reach his potential.
“During my first year, Serge helped me a lot. I sat beside him in the dressing room, and, in typical Serge fashion, he was very calm. He helped give my career a boost,” confided Lapointe. “Even in 1972, I was still a rookie in my second season, I got plenty of advice from Serge. He was a lot like my mentor.”
A mentor of sorts now in his own right as the amateur scouting coordinator for the Minnesota Wild for the past nine seasons, Lapointe can't wait for the day when he can share the highest of honors for any Canadiens player with his family in the not so distant future.
“To have played for the Canadiens. I’m from Montreal. I lived 45 minutes from the Forum. Playing for Montreal was amazing. A solid organization that always developed its players well and still does that very well today. The time I put in, that’s what I accomplished,” explained Lapointe, whose No. 5 jersey will be retired alongside that of Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion. “To be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, to be a part of the Summit Series in 1972, to have my jersey retired…I’m on cloud nine right now. It’s really special.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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