MONTREAL -- Jean Beliveau wanted to be remembered as a team player. On Wednesday, his beloved Montreal Canadiens celebrated his life as a good man, above all.
Max Pacioretty, Carey Price, P.K. Subban and the rest of the Canadiens were among the 1,500 people who attended Beliveau's funeral at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral.
Beliveau was eulogized by Hall of Fame teammates Dickie Moore, Yvan Cournoyer, Serge Savard and Ken Dryden, and Canadiens owner, CEO and president Geoff Molson.
"It was an emotional experience," Price said. "I don't think you'll ever meet another guy that was loved and respected by so many people, and it was a real honor to be a part of his memory and the celebration of a really good life."
Montreal players, coaches and alumni followed Beliveau's casket, which was draped with a Canadiens flag, and his wife Elise, daughter Helene and grandchildren Magalie and Mylene. Cournoyer and Savard served as pallbearers along with Guy Lafleur, Bobby Rousseau, Phil Goyette and Jean-Guy Talbot, the last a teammate of Beliveau for his first seven Stanley Cup wins.
"I always knew it was special to be a Montreal Canadien, but it's gotten to a whole new level," Brendan Gallagher said. "I think we've all kind of gone through this together, supported each other through it, and to be a part of it, it's really an honor. It's something I feel really privileged to be a part of, and you just try to represent it the best you can.
"Mr. Beliveau did an unbelievable job of setting the stage for what it means to be a Montreal Canadien. He set the bar really high. He was an unbelievable example, and I think that was passed down from generation to generation. Now it's onto us to kind of make sure his message and his legacy gets passed on."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, and Montreal mayor Denis Coderre were among the dignitaries who paid their respects.
"A day like today shows how big the Canadiens are and what they represent to the people in this province and for the people of Montreal," PA Parenteau said. "I was proud to be part of that."
Toronto Maple Leafs great Johnny Bower, who faced Beliveau in three Stanley Cup Finals, and fellow Hall of Fame members Darryl Sittler, Mario Lemieux, Luc Robitaille and Brendan Shanahan made their way through a Montreal snowstorm to be on hand along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
"Seeing all the faces from the world of hockey, and from the world of politics; you see ex-prime ministers here," Subban said. "It shows you how big of a deal it is. A lot of people on the current team, we weren't able to watch Jean Beliveau play, but we definitely know about the legend, and it's our job to make sure that what he's accomplished and what he's built here in Montreal lives on."
Former and current Montreal Canadiens were among the 1,500 people who turned out Wednesday for the funeral of hockey legend Jean Beliveau, who died Dec. 2 at age 83. (Photo: Olivier Samson Arcand)
The Canadiens defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 Tuesday in their first home game since Beliveau died at the age of 83 on Dec. 2.
"He was a patient of mine for a long time, and he fought a great battle," Canadiens physician Dr. David Mulder said. "He was an incredible guy."
Tomas Plekanec handed the puck from his game-winning goal to Mulder afterward.
"He said to please give it to Mrs. Beliveau, because this is such a special event, such a special game," Mulder said. "So I was going to pass it on through the crowd, and then I walked up through and gave it to her, and she was bowled over by it, she was so emotional. We won't ever forget it."
The Hall of Fame center lay in state at Bell Centre on Sunday and Monday, when the Canadiens visited the Beliveau family, who shook hands and greeted every person who went to comfort them and pay their respects.
"It's been a tough week for everybody, but I think at the end of the day we're all thankful that we're here, being a part of this," Pacioretty said. "It's an honor for all of us to be here, today especially. It's probably the most emotional day, and I think going forward we can't forget a day like this."