No. 19 is where is belongs, in the rafters of the Bell Centre alongside those of the 12 Montreal Canadiens
legends previously honored.
The Canadiens retired Larry Robinson’s No. 19 Monday night, and in typical Robinson fashion, he made the event into one celebrating family and friends, not himself.
“I just want to say that I wouldn’t be here without them and the sacrifices they made for me,” Robinson said, fighting back tears, as he thanked his family. “And of course my wife and best friend, Jeanette.”
Robinson’s career with the Canadiens was glorious. In Montreal, he won six Stanley Cups, one Conn Smythe Trophy, and two Norris Trophies. He scored 883 points in 1,202 regular-season games and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs each season he was in Montreal, playing in 203 postseason games.
Always humble, the current New Jersey Devils assistant coach deflected away talk of his many accomplishments with humor.
“Trying to do that would be like eating a can of beans and trying to figure out which one would give you the most gas,” Robinson said to a roar of laughs from the media between periods of the Canadiens’ 4-2 loss to the Senators Monday.
All kidding aside, Robinson let it be known how grateful he truly is for his family’s support, referencing back to his childhood in Marvelville, Ontario.
“We were given great morals as children,” he said. “When you grow up on a dairy farm as we did, you don’t just wake up and play hockey. Everyone was given chores to do, and there were values learned from this. What we didn’t have in money we had in values. We loved and supported each other and that helped me through life.”
The absence of his parents, who passed away years ago, was the only down side of the night for Robinson, who said he knew they were “watching from above.” But Robinson also showed his love and affection to what he considers his extended family, members of the Canadiens he grew close to over the years.
“We have a legacy here the same way the Yankees do in New York,” Robinson said. “To be able to say you’re part of that and look up and see your number there with so many of those legends is just a wonderful feeling.”
New Jersey President/General Manager Lou Lamoriello presented Robinson to the sold-out crowd on hand at Bell Centre.
“We became very close during my years as a coach with the Devils, especially when I was having those health problems, and I think since my days there, other than my wife, no one knows me better than Lou,” said Robinson, who won a Stanley Cup as coach of the Devils in 2000.
During his presentation, Lamoriello told two stories of Robinson’s family values and loyalty. One came immediately after the Devils won the 2000 Stanley Cup, when Robinson went to the hospital to be with Petr Sykora, who was injured in the clinching game. Lamoriello also recounted a more recent event. When Robinson recently discovered an old colleague’s wife was ill, he and his wife immediately drove from Canada to New Jersey to be with him for a week.
"I find him to be one of the most caring and considerate individuals I have ever been associated with," Lamoriello said.
Robinson becomes the 13th player to have his number retired by the Canadiens, joining Jacques Plante (No. 1), Doug Harvey (No. 2), Jean Beliveau (No. 4), Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion (No. 5), Howie Morenz (No. 7), Maurice (Rocket) Richard (No. 9), Guy Lafleur (No. 10), Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer (No. 12), Henri Richard (No. 16), Serge Savard (No. 18) and Ken Dryden (No. 29).
"I am humbled to know my name will forever be in their company," Robinson said.
Canadiens captain Saku Koivu and alternate captains Alex Kovalev and Chris Higgins presented Robinson with his No. 19 banner. After it was raised to the rafters Robinson walked on the ice and shook the hand of every single member of both the Canadiens and Senators, who were lined up along the blue lines, and then shook hands with both coaching staffs.
Robinson's numbers with the Canadiens were extraordinary, setting franchise records for defensemen in games played (1,202), goals (197), assists (686), points (883) and points in a season (85 in 1976-77). He won six Stanley Cups with the Canadiens and also has the NHL record for playing 20 consecutive seasons in the playoffs, 17 of them with the Canadiens.
But his most remarkable statistic is his career plus-730 rating, including a staggering plus-120 in 1976-77.
Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.