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'We just lost a huge person in the same style as a Jean Beliveau'

Claude Julien and Kirk Muller paid tribute to Henri Richard on Friday, reflecting on his storied career with the Canadiens

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

FORT LAUDERDALE - Head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller joined the rest of the hockey world in mourning the loss of Henri Richard on Friday.

The Hall of Famer passed away at age 84 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease.

For Julien and Muller alike, Richard's death was personal. 

Having crossed paths with the "Pocket Rocket" over the course of their respective tenures with the organization, they were sad to learn that another Canadiens legend had left us.

During a media scrum in South Florida, Julien fondly recalled Richard being an especially popular figure in his household growing up.

The Montreal native was without a doubt his father Marcel's favorite player. It was Richard's relentlessness that made the elder Julien a lifelong fan.

"Just by the way he played, he was a small player, but he feared nothing and he had a lot of grit in his game. And he wasn't afraid to go anywhere on the ice. He stood up for himself, and he had a mean streak, but he was also a good player. He could score goals. He was a complete player, and like a lot of people today that like the Brendan Gallagher kind of style, little guys that come in there and play big, well that's what Henri Richard did," explained Julien. "It's easy to like a guy like that. I liked him a lot. When I got to Montreal, and I was able to get my father some Henri Richard stuff, it made his day."

Video: Claude Julien shares his memories of Henri Richard

The veteran bench boss didn't just appreciate Richard as a player, though. He genuinely admired him as a person as well.

The former Habs captain's grace and elegance away from the rink was something that instantly caught his attention.

"When I met him, big smile. You could see he was a great gentleman. That's what makes great players, right? They step on the ice and they've got dual personalities. They're all about business and they played hard and everything, but off the ice he was a gentleman. Every time you saw him, he looked like an easy guy to approach and then chat," praised Julien. "My father saw him in an elevator, but was too shy to say hi to him. That's as close as he got to Henri, but I'm sure had he reached out to him, he would've been more than happy to shake his hand. It's something I'm sure he probably regrets today, but nonetheless, we just lost a huge person in the same style as a Jean Beliveau."

Tweet from @NHL: 11 Stanley Cups 👏 Today, we remember the life and career of Henri Richard.

Julien is still in awe of Richard's League-record 11 Stanley Cup titles during his 20-year NHL career with his hometown team.

Knowing full well just how difficult winning hockey's top prize really is, he doesn't see that mark being surpassed in the near future.

"It'll be a long time before you see someone who'll be missing fingers for their rings. That was the case for Henri. It's incredible," said Julien. "Eleven Stanley Cup rings, as a player, I don't know if that record will ever be broken. That's the kind of team they had back then, and he was a captain because he was a great leader."

Like Julien, Muller was quick to praise Richard's remarkable resume and competitive spirit.

"As an ex-captain, I think the biggest thing is what he represented, and that was 11 Stanley Cups that everyone's going to talk about. But the biggest thing I guess is how he did it. I didn't really grow up having the opportunity to see him play, but you hear the stories. The fact remains that he did it. He wasn't a big guy, but if you shook his hand, you knew darn well that he was strong. He was fierce, he was a competitor, and you can't teach that," explained Muller. "When you put skill together with the fierce competitor that he was, that was generally a pretty good formula that you're going to have success. He earned those 11 Cups. It's a tribute to him to have that in his back pocket."

Video: Kirk Muller on his interactions with Henri Richard

Muller believes he grew as a player and as a leader from observing Richard's humble nature.

He also wholeheartedly appreciated the support he felt from Richard and fellow alumni when he was still sporting the CH.

"When you're an active player and an active captain at the time, they never talked about themselves. They never talked about their 11 Cups. The only thing they really did, they were very visible at the rinks and the games, but it was all about the Montreal Canadiens present players. They were really behind you," said Muller. "They wanted to see this organization continue to win. When you come in here, the power of seeing a guy that can come in there going, "Hey, there's nothing to do with me or my group, it's all about we want you to win." That was when I really found out the real feel of being a part of the Montreal Canadiens family. There's a lot of pride to that. I always tell people it's a lot to do with guys like him."

Tweet from @GMolsonCHC: Henri ����Pocket Rocket���� Richard was a great player and a great ambassador for the Montreal Canadiens organization. His passing is a great loss for all. My thoughts are with his family.

Muller also shared a funny anecdote about the former Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy winner, too. 

"I remember a few years ago, we went to Buffalo. It was the 40th anniversary of the organization. He came on the flight there, and here he was coming on. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Do we have any beer?" He goes, "My wife always packed me a brown bag with my sandwich and my apple, and maybe slid a couple of extra beers in there," joked Muller. "Times have changed now."

They sure have, but Richard's legacy will live on forever.

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