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Defence great Lapointe has No. 5 jersey retired by Habs in emotional ceremony

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MONTREAL - The Big Three were reunited both on the ice and up in the Bell Centre rafters on Saturday.

Guy Lapointe, the last of the Montreal Canadiens defensive greats from the 1970s along with Serge Savard and Larry Robinson, had his No. 5 jersey retired ahead of a game between the Canadiens and the Minnesota Wild.

The 66-year-old Lapointe was in tears with his family and his defence mates at his side as a banner was raised to the roof in a pre-game ceremony.

"It's unimaginable," Lapointe said later. "I was thinking of my parents and what it would be like if they could be here.

"It was my father who convinced me to try out for the Canadiens. Hopefully, he's up there somewhere with a big smile and saying 'I'm glad he listened to me for once.' "

Savard had his No. 18 retired in 2006 and Robinson's No. 19 went up in 2007.

The No. 5 had already been taken out of service for Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, but the Canadiens have three numbers retired in the name of more than one player who wore it. In all, 18 players and 15 numbers have been honoured over the years.

The 30-minute ceremony opened with a highlight video of Lapointe's career that included tributes from former teammates Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey and Rejean Houle.

Robinson and Savard gave short speeches before Lapointe gave an emotional talk about how proud he was to play for the NHL's most storied franchise and to have won six Stanley Cups as well as being part of winning teams at the 1972 Summit Series and the 1976 Canada Cup.

He saved a special thank you for Claude Ruel, the former Canadiens coach and player development ace who helped tutor a long list of defence greats.

The current Canadiens skated out for the banner raising, while the Wild players applauded from their bench. The date was chosen because Lapointe is Minnesota's co-ordinator of amateur scouting.

In his 14 seasons with Montreal from 1968 to 1982, Lapointe was one of the NHL's premier puck-moving defencemen, combining speed and sharp passing with a powerful shot.

In 1970-71, he set a team record for goals by a rookie defenceman with 15 and in 1974-75, he set the standard for goals by a Canadiens' rearguard with 29. His highest points total was 76 in 1976-77, when he scored 25 times.

The Montreal native won six Stanley Cups, including four in a row from 1976 to 1979 on a powerhouse Montreal team that, along with the Big Three, was led by Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Jacques Lemaire, Gainey and goalie Dryden.

Lapointe and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.

Lapointe made his NHL debut on Oct. 27, 1968, his only game that season. He played five more the following season before joining the Canadiens for good in 1970.

Injuries plagued his final three seasons in Montreal and he was dealt to St. Louis in 1982. In 1983-84, he played one last season with the Boston Bruins before retiring as a player.

He later as an assistant coach wit the Quebec Nordiques and the Calgary Flames and joined Minnesota as amateur scouting director for their expansion season in 1999.

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