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Robinson's No. 19 retired by Montreal Canadiens prior to game against Ottawa @NHLdotcom

MONTREAL (AP) -Larry Robinson had Montreal Canadiens fans squarely behind him for one more special night.

Robinson, a New Jersey assistant coach, had his No. 19 retired by Montreal in a ceremony prior to Monday night's game against Ottawa.

A six-time Stanley Cup champion in 17 seasons with the Canadiens from 1972-89, the 6-foot-4 defenseman known as "Big Bird" won the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman twice, in 1976-77 and 1979-80.

Part of Montreal's renowned Big Three on defense along with Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe, Robinson was a member of the Canadiens' four straight Stanley Cup wins from 1976-79.

Robinson won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1977 after recording a plus-120 during the 1976-77, the second-best single-season plus-minus mark in league history.

The ceremony began with video tributes from Wayne Gretzky, Robinson's teammate with Los Angeles from 1989-92, Ken Dryden, current Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, and Dave Schultz, the Philadelphia Flyers' main enforcer on the Broad Street Bullies teams of the mid-70s.

Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello introduced Robinson, who has added his name to the Stanley Cup three more times with New Jersey as an assistant coach in 1995, head coach in 2000, and a special assignment coach in 2003.

"He was a special player on the ice and a special person off the ice, where I continue to cherish the opportunity to work with him," said Lamoriello, whose remarks were translated into French on the video scoreboard.

Robinson finished his career with three seasons in Los Angeles and a record 20 consecutive playoff appearances.

Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995, Robinson became the 13th player to have his number retired by the team. Canadiens GM Bob Gainey will have his No. 23 retired on Feb. 23.

"I am humbled to know my name will forever be in their company," Robinson said.

The ceremony figured to be an emotional one with a strong family presence supporting Robinson, despite the absence of both of his parents and a brother, who have all passed away.

"I'm not going to be a Mark Messier," Robinson said after he choked up momentarily when he began to address his children.

Canadiens captain Saku Koivu and alternate captains Alex Kovalev and Chris Higgins brought out Robinson's banner and helped him unfurl it and attach it to be hoisted.

All three players shook hands with Robinson and embraced him before they all posed for pictures with the No. 19 banner suspended in the background.

Robinson shed a few tears as his wife, sisters and brother, children and grandchildren, gathered around him while his banner was hoisted to the rafters.

He then shook hands with each of the Canadiens players, who - like Koivu, Kovalev and Higgins - were all wearing "Robinson" No. 19 jerseys as they stood along the blue line.

Robinson also shook hands with all of the Senators players, who had also lined up along the blue line after watching the entire ceremony from the visitors' bench even though the ceremony began one hour before the regular opening faceoff to avoid any delay to the game.

The Devils were off Monday night.

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