MONTREAL - Ask anyone who's ever donned bleu-blanc-rouge, and they'll tell you there are no shortage of reasons why it's special to play puck in Montreal. One of the most exciting perks is the ability to rub elbows with and soak up advice from some of the club's legendary players who have represented the Habs over the years.
Earlier this season, Canadiens forwards Brendan Gallagher and Max Domi had the chance to sit down with Hall-of-Famer Yvan Cournoyer, and the former No. 12 was more than willing to share his wisdom with Nos. 11 and 13.
One of the most poignant pieces of advice offered up from the 77-year-old actually came from Cournoyer's former captain, Jean Beliveau, whose reputation of leading by example and of caring for those around him is well-known by anyone who knew him personally or from afar.
"I learned a lot from Jean, because I was 20 years old when I came into the team," shared Cournoyer, who joined the Canadiens for a five-game amateur tryout in 1963-64, and who served as team captain from 1975-76 until 1978-79. "One thing Jean said was, 'I'm your captain during the season, but I'm your captain during the summer, too. If you have a problem, let me know and I'll help you guys.'"
Beliveau was in his mid-thirties when Cournoyer became a Hab, and wanted to make sure the young forward didn't lose sight of where he was and what he was doing before it was too late.
"He always told me, 'Yvan, time goes so quick.' I said, 'Ah, I have lots of time, I'm 20 years old.' But he was right," affirmed Cournoyer, who retired at age 35 in 1978-79 due to back problems.
There's no question that both current Habs have fully embraced the significance of what it means to play for the Canadiens. So when Gallagher, who's in his eighth season in Montreal, and Domi, who joined the Habs in an offseason trade prior to 2018-19, asked if Cournoyer had ever thought of playing for another team, there's no doubt they appreciated the definitive answer given by the veteran of 16 seasons.
"I think I would have quit if they had asked me to go to another team," declared Cournoyer without hesitation.
Of course, Beliveau wasn't the only Habs great that Cournoyer had the privilege of playing with. And drawing from his experience skating with Henri Richard, Cournoyer paid a compliment to the two current Habs who, like the Pocket Rocket and the Roadrunner, are smaller in stature but make up for their lack of size with their grit and drive.
"Henri showed me a lot of character. He was not very big and he could have fought anybody," remembered Cournoyer of Richard, who notched 1,046 points in 1,258 games for Montreal. "He was not big, but he had a lot of determination. Like you guys, you two."
Cournoyer added that Gallagher reminds him of the New England Patriots' 5-foot-10, 198-pound wide receiver Julian Edelman, a comparison which Gallagher took as a big compliment.
"He's one of my favorite football players," said Gallagher.
As fellow "small" guys, Domi and Gallagher were curious about how Cournoyer, who's listed as 5-foot-7 and 178 pounds on NHL.com, managed to have so much success - 428 goals and 435 assists in 968 games, to be exact - at a time when brute and brawn were the name of the game.
The answer, said Cournoyer, was his speed, plain and simple.
Speaking of which… how did he become known as the Roadrunner, anyway?
"A reporter from Sports Illustrated came in the room after [a game in New York] and he said, 'Yvan, today you were the Roadrunner. You were so quick, you scored goals, and nobody could touch you,'" recounted the 10-time Stanley Cup winner. "So he wrote in Sports Illustrated, 'The Roadrunner scored two goals and nobody could touch him. So two weeks after, I went back to New York and this guy came in the room and I said, 'Do you know what you did to me?' He said, 'Well, I said the Roadrunner scored two goals.' I said, 'Now I have to skate fast the rest of my career. That's your fault.'"
Video: Coffee with Canadiens: Domi, Gallagher, Cournoyer
All joking aside, that's exactly what Cournoyer did, registering four 40-goal seasons and hitting the 25-goal mark a whopping 11 times in a row.
But the most prescient piece of advice given to Gallagher and Domi by Cournoyer, who won the Conn Smythe trophy after setting a new record with 15 postseason goals en route to the team's 18th Stanley Cup in 1973, was a simple one:
"Never, never let down. Never quit," he concluded. "Because you have a good team."