BROSSARD – When Guy Lapointe’s No. 5 jersey is raised to the rafters on Saturday night, Michel Therrien’s troops will join along with a raucous Bell Centre crowd to celebrate one of the all-time greats in Canadiens history.
Prior to the tilt against the Minnesota Wild, the Habs will honor the Hockey Hall-of-Famer, who played an integral part in the Canadiens’ six Stanley Cup victories during the 1970’s as a member of the Big Three on defense alongside Larry Robinson and Serge Savard.
Lapointe, who still holds the Canadiens’ team record for most goals in a season by a defenseman with 28, and most goals by a rookie defenseman with 15, continues to inspire players over three decades after wrapping up an illustrious NHL career. In 14 years with the Canadiens, the Montreal native registered 572 points in 777 games, which ranks him second all-time among defensemen in team history.
“It’s special to be a part of it. I didn’t see him play, but it will be a really fun moment for us. I had the opportunity to experience a similar ceremony with Adam Foote last season in Colorado. Guy is one of hockey’s greats, especially in Montreal. He was a part of the Big Three. He won six Stanley Cup titles. I know the guys are excited to be a part of it,” offered Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, who will have a front-row seat for the Canadiens’ first jersey retirement ceremony since December 4th, 2009, when the squad honored Elmer Lach and Emile Bouchard. “I don’t think we’ll ever see a Big Three of that calibre again, especially with 30 teams out there and the salary cap situation. Saturday night is Guy’s night, and I know he’ll have a good time.”
The Canadiens’ bench boss shared similar sentiments in his post-practice press conference at the Bell Sports Complex on Friday.
“In terms of the memories I have of Guy Lapointe, it’s got to be the Big Three. That’s what I remember the most. To have the opportunity to see the Big Three will be something very special. It will great to see them reunited on the ice for Guy’s jersey retirement,” offered Therrien, who, unlike his players, had a chance to see Lapointe strut his stuff during his childhood. “It’s a well-deserved honor. I’m happy for him. I’m happy for his family. He deserves to have his jersey retired.”
Tom Gilbert is one member of the Canadiens’ defense corps who likely spent some one-on-one time with the three-time 20-goal scorer in recent years during a stint with the Minnesota Wild, the team for which Lapointe now serves as chief amateur scout.
“It’s obviously neat to have old alumni come in and see what’s going on now. It’s great to be able to talk to them and hear what it was like when they were playing. It’s always great to get their advice and hear their stories. It’s fun to play in front of them,” mentioned Gilbert, who played 63 games in the Twin Cities during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 campaigns. “It’s amazing to see what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished.”
And, in Therrien’s eyes, the Big Three certainly had what it took to be just as successful in today’s NHL, too.
“They’d definitely be dominant in today’s game. A lot has changed in terms of players having access to all kinds of new technology and conditioning, and the play is a lot faster than it was back then. But, if you’d given these guys those same opportunities, they’d still be the Big Three,” stressed Therrien. “They’d be the same and even better. The best will always be the best.”
With that in mind, the Canadiens won’t have to look too far for a source of inspiration come Saturday night.
“We want to have a good night, especially since it’s a special one like this,” concluded Parenteau. “Winning the game against Minnesota will make it even more special. It’s a motivating factor.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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