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This Date in NHL History

June 9 a special day in NHL history

Canadiens, Avalanche, Devils, Blackhawks each won Cup on this day; Montreal captain Beliveau retired 45 years ago

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

PITTSBURGH -- It was a day that featured four remarkable on-ice celebrations, the Montreal Forum welcome to the NHL of a fabulous player and, down the street in a Montreal hotel ballroom 13 years earlier, the emotional farewell of a legend for all time.

Hockey remembers June 9 as one of its truly newsworthy days.

On this day in 1993, the Montreal Canadiens won their 24th and most recent Stanley Cup championship, defeating the Los Angeles Kings in five games. It also marks the most recent time that a team from Canada won the NHL title.

In 2001, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ray Bourque, in his 22nd NHL season, the first 20-plus spent with the Boston Bruins, won the Stanley Cup. He then announced his retirement.

In 2003, New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who had lost in the Cup Final to Bourque and the Avalanche two years earlier, had his League record seventh shutout of the playoffs and a record-tying third in a single series in Game 7 of the Cup Final to lift the Devils to the title against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

In 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks ended a 49-year Cup drought when Patrick Kane scored at 4:06 of overtime in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers. At 21, Kane became the youngest player to score an overtime Cup-winning goal; the previous record was held by former Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr, who did it in 1970 at age 22.

They were glorious, defining moments for four teams and many players, with the 2016 Penguins presented the opportunity on Thursday to add their name to this date's gilt-edged list.

There were also memorable moments off the ice on this day.

On his way into the League on June 9, 1984 was Mario Lemieux, chosen at No. 1 by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Draft at the Montreal Forum. Super Mario, as Lemieux became known, would go on to become a Hockey Hall of Fame member and is co-owner of the Penguins.

And a poignant event 45 years ago to this day: legendary Canadiens captain Jean Beliveau announcing his retirement on June 9, 1971 to close the book on a magnificent playing career and write the first words of a memorable new chapter.

Beliveau hung up his skates and his No. 4 sweater with the same dignity and grace with which he lived his life as a player and a figure in his community, the ballroom of Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel packed to hear the iconic center, soon to turn 40, declare he was done.

"Hockey has been my life since the day my father gave me a pair of skates when I was 5 years old," Beliveau said. "It was a hard decision [to retire] because I still love the action on the ice. I had hundreds of letters from fans and friends urging me to play one more season. And hard, too, because of requests from some of my teammates."

Beliveau went out as a champion, having led the Canadiens to the title in 1971 against the Blackhawks in a stirring, seven-game Stanley Cup Final. 

But his life is not measured solely by his achievements on the ice. Beliveau's humanitarian work and the countless hours he gave to charitable groups, almost until his passing in 2014, made him a pillar in his city, his province and far beyond. 

Beyond being one of the most graceful, dominant centers, Beliveau is regarded as one of hockey's greatest ambassadors, a gentleman in every sense, and seemingly everyone who met him even for an instant has their own special Beliveau story.

When he stepped to the microphones on this day 45 years ago, Béliveau had played 1,125 regular-season games and 162 more in the playoffs, all for the Canadiens, winning the Stanley Cup 10 times and scoring 586 goals.

He would be an executive vice president of the Canadiens from the moment he stepped off the podium and would see his name engraved on the Stanley Cup another seven times as an executive, his 17 appearances on the trophy more than anyone else.

Beliveau's retirement was not the Canadiens' only headline-making news that day. The team named Scotty Bowman coach, coming in after Claude Ruel and Al MacNeil had succeeded the legendary Toe Blake, winner of eight Stanley Cup titles during his 13-season tenure. Bowman, on his way to becoming the most successful coach in NHL history, would win five championships in Montreal over seven seasons. 

Beliveau admitted that the idea of retirement had grown stronger in his mind following the Canadiens' victory over Chicago, though he still wasn't convinced it was time.

It was on May 30, flying back to Montreal from a trip to Calgary, that he said he had the time he needed to truly consider retirement.

"I had three and a half hours of peace with myself to really think about it," Beliveau said. "I made up my mind to offer my place to a younger player."

That would be future superstar Guy Lafleur, who, like Beliveau, would arrive from Quebec City with great fanfare.

There were even suggestions that Lafleur would inherit Beliveau's famous No. 4, which on Oct. 9, 1971 was retired in the rafters of the Montreal Forum, and since 1996 has hung in Bell Centre.

"Maybe we should talk to Lafleur," he said. "There will be enough pressure on him. Maybe he doesn't want No. 4, maybe he does."

Ultimately, Lafleur would wear No. 10 until the organization retired it from service on Feb. 16, 1985, upon his retirement from the Canadiens.
Beliveau would leave the hotel ballroom for reflection following his poignant goodbye, then appear that night at Jarry Park for the Montreal Expos' baseball game against the San Francisco Giants. The evening had been planned some time earlier as a tribute to the Canadiens star, but his retirement that day, which was purely coincidental, made the event magical.

More than 20,000 fans who packed the small ballpark gave a thunderous two-minute standing ovation to their hockey hero, who was joined by his parents, Canadiens management, early-years coaches Rolland Hebert and Punch Imlach and former teammates Maurice Richard, Emile Bouchard and Bernie Geoffrion. 

The Expos cooperated, defeating the Giants 4-0 on pitcher Steve Renko's one-hitter. But even Renko's mastery was overshadowed by the meeting at home plate of Béliveau and Giants icon Willie Mays.

Beliveau retired as a two-time winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player, as well as a recipient of the Art Ross Trophy as the League's top point scorer and the inaugural Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs.

He would be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972, alongside the Detroit Red Wings' Gordie Howe, his dear friend and longtime rival, and Geoffrion.

The ink on Béliveau's retirement papers was barely dry when the Canadiens embraced their future the following day. In the same ballroom where their brilliant star had just retired, they made Lafleur the No. 1 choice in the NHL Draft.

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