The Montreal Canadiens wanted Jean Beliveau so badly they bought an entire league. It was one of the smartest moves in franchise history.
Beliveau, who died Tuesday at age 83, made brief appearances with Montreal during the 1950-51 season and again in '52-53 as an amateur, but didn't have much interest in turning pro. The Canadiens ultimately bought the amateur Quebec Senior Hockey League and turned it into a professional minor league; Beliveau, who had signed a contract to play with Montreal if he turned pro, had no choice but to join the Canadiens, and he did in 1953-54.
He was a star almost from the minute he stepped on the ice in October 1953. Beliveau won the Hart Trophy and the Art Ross Trophy in the 1955-56 season, helping Montreal to the first of five straight Stanley Cup championships. He retired in 1971 as a champion for the 10th time, leading the Canadiens to a seven-game victory against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.
Here is a look at the timeline of Beliveau's career:
1950 -- Beliveau made his NHL debut with the Canadiens on Dec. 16 against the New York Rangers. He wore No. 17. It was one of two games he played with Montreal during an amateur tryout; in the other, he scored his first NHL goal and had an assist in a 4-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Forum on Jan. 27, 1951.
1952 -- During his second amateur tryout, Beliveau had his first NHL hat trick, scoring three times against the Rangers on Dec. 18 while wearing No. 12. He wore his famous No. 4 for the first time on Oct. 3, 1953, when he had an assist for the Canadiens in the All-Star Game, which was played before the start of the season.
1955 -- Beliveau scored twice against Chicago on Jan. 6 to reach the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career (he reached 20 goals in 13 different seasons) and had a goal against the Rangers on Feb. 5 to reach the 30-goal mark for the first of eight times. He also scored four times against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 8; three of the goals (all on the power play) came in 44 seconds, the second-fastest hat trick in NHL history.
1956 -- After winning the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top scorer with 88 points in 70 games, Beliveau scored 12 times in 10 playoff games. The 12th goal started the Canadiens on their way to a 3-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 5 of the Final. It was the first of five straight championships for the Canadiens.
1960 -- He scored twice, including the Cup-winning goal, to lead the Canadiens to a 4-0 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs and a sweep of the Final, giving Montreal its fifth consecutive Stanley Cup.
1961 -- Beliveau was named captain of the Canadiens after defenseman Doug Harvey was traded to the Rangers. He wore the "C" for the remaining 10 seasons of his career.
1963 -- He scored twice in a 7-2 victory against Toronto. The second goal was No. 325 of his career, passing Nels Stewart for most goals by a center. Beliveau completed the 1963-64 season with 78 points and won the Hart Trophy for the second time in his career.
1965 -- Beliveau scored his 350th regular-season goal in a game against the Rangers on March 14. He had a goal and an assist in a 2-0 victory against Chicago in Game 2 of the Final to reach 100 points in Stanley Cup Playoff action, then scored 14 seconds into Game 7 to lead Montreal to a 4-0 victory against the Blackhawks. He was named the winner of the inaugural Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the playoffs, after scoring eight goals and finishing with 16 points in 13 games.
1966 -- He scored a goal in Game 6 of the Final to help the Canadiens beat the Red Wings 3-2 in overtime. It was their seventh Stanley Cup with Beliveau on the team.
1967 -- Beliveau became the third player in NHL history to reach the 400-goal mark when he scored to lead the Canadiens to a 2-1 victory on Oct. 11, spoiling the NHL debut of the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of six teams that joined the League for the 1967-68 season. On Dec. 28, he had four assists in a 6-2 win against the Minnesota North Stars to pass Maurice Richard for the most points as a Canadien. Richard had 965 in 978 regular-season games; Beliveau got points Nos. 966 and 967 in his 884th game.
1968 -- Beliveau scored against Detroit on March 3 to join Gordie Howe as the only players in NHL history to reach 1,000 regular-season points. A three-goal performance against Chicago on April 20 marked the only playoff hat trick of his career. The Canadiens went on to win their eighth Cup under coach Toe Blake; Beliveau was a member of all eight teams, though he missed the last three games of the Final against the St. Louis Blues due to injury.
1969 -- After scoring the only overtime goal of his career in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Beliveau led the Canadiens to a sweep of the Blues in the Final. He became the first in Canadiens history to play 1,000 regular-season games when he took the ice against Minnesota on Oct. 28, and reached the 1,100-point mark with an assist the next night against the Blues.
1971 -- In what was to be his final NHL season, Beliveau reached the 500-goal mark with the third of his three goals against Minnesota on Feb. 11. He scored the 507th regular-season goal and 1,129th point of his career on April 3, scored his final playoff goal on May 11 against Chicago and became a member of a Cup-winning team for the 10th time when the Canadiens beat the Blackhawks 3-2 in Game 7 at Chicago Stadium on May 18. He retired three weeks later.
1972 -- The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Beliveau one year after his retirement and two years ahead of the usual waiting period.
1993 -- Beliveau extended his own record by getting his name on the Stanley Cup for the 17th time when the Canadiens beat the Los Angeles Kings in a five-game Final. His name appears 10 times as a player and seven as an executive with the Canadiens.