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Flyers' Lecavalier discusses Jean Beliveau's impact

by Curtis Zupke / Philadelphia Flyers

ANAHEIM -- The picture has a timeless quality to it, even if Jean Beliveau's brown suit and green-and-red tie harken back to another era. There is Beliveau sitting on the boards, holding a young Vincent Lecavalier against a dark background of a hockey rink. Both are smiling.

The photo was taken at a hockey tournament Lecavalier's older brother was playing in, and it was the first time Lecavalier met Beliveau.

"I was very young, so I don't remember the moment exactly, but that picture's in my house back in Montreal signed by him," Lecavalier said. "It was a great honor to meet him. Obviously when I made it to the NHL, I met him a few times after that. [He's] just a nice person. He has a lot of respect for everybody, the way he treats people."

Lecavalier had a unique bond with Beliveau, the beloved Montreal Canadiens legend who died Tuesday at 83. He wore Beliveau's No. 4 since he was about 3 years old until he joined the Philadelphia Flyers -- the Flyers retired the number in honor of Barry Ashbee -- because Beliveau was his grandfather's favorite player. Lecavalier also played Beliveau in the 2005 film "The Rocket: The Maurice Richard Story," which is about Beliveau's former Canadiens teammate.

Lecavalier seemed like a natural fit to play the Canadiens great. He resembles Beliveau and is said to have a similar playing style. Still, he was surprised when he was asked to portray Beliveau.

"Just to put that Montreal Canadiens jersey -- the old, wool jersey that they wore in the '50s, '60s with the Canadiens sign, No. 4 -- it was a good experience," Lecavalier said. "And to see yourself on TV; I wasn't a main actor in the movie but just to play the few scenes I did, it was great. It was a lot of fun."

Lecavalier said he didn't get to keep the sweater, but he remembers well the other props that were used.

"They gave us the old wooden sticks, and [I was] like, 'Wow, how did they shoot with that?'" he said. "The old skates too."

Like most who knew Beliveau, the one word that Lecavalier associates with him is class, particularly how he conducted himself and became a role model for hockey players and professional athletes in general. Lecavalier said Beliveau set the example for him in an unspoken way.

"That's the thing with him," Lecavalier said. "He's not a person that would -- we didn't have these long conversations -- every time I saw him I was kind of in awe. I just shook his hand. You just look at him and he's the example of the perfect athlete, on and off. What he did until he passed away -- going to the Montreal Canadiens game and shaking everyone's hand -- he's just a good person. He's just a good person. I think he's a great example for anybody to look at and say, 'If I'm an athlete, I'd like to be like him.'

Lecavalier found out about Beliveau's death on television during the Flyers game Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.

"It was tough," he said. "Obviously, for what he's done for hockey, and not just hockey, but everything around it. He's such a great example of how to be on and off the ice. It was obviously a tough day for the hockey world."

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