Rare is the talent so great that a sports franchise would buy an entire league to secure his services. Jean Beliveau of the Montreal Canadiens was such a talent.
Beliveau died Tuesday at the age of 83.
Despite being born in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Beliveau did not have a burning desire to play for the legendary NHL team nearby. In fact, he spurned several offers from Montreal general manager Frank Selke to sign a contract, choosing instead to play with the Quebec Aces of the amateur Quebec Senior Hockey League. Eventually, Selke had the Canadiens buy the whole QSHL in 1953, turning it into a professional league and securing the rights to Beliveau in the process.
It was one of the great investments in hockey history. The Canadiens have had great players including Maurice Richard, Guy Lafleur and Patrick Roy; however, few cast a shadow like Beliveau, known affectionately as "Le Gros Bill."
Beliveau spent 18 full seasons with the Canadiens from 1953-71 after his two amateur tryouts. In 1,125 games, he scored 507 goals, set up 712 others and finished with 1,219 points. He played in 13 NHL All-Star Games, won the Hart Trophy as League MVP twice (1956 and 1964), the Art Ross Trophy as top scorer in 1956, and the inaugural Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 1965.