The bloom is off the flower. Sadly, cancer has claimed its second hockey legend in as many weeks with the death of Guy Lafleur following the loss of Mike Bossy.
They are both terrible tragedies. In the case of Lafleur, however, it hits home a little more personally.
In 2003, I was given the chance to play goal against Lafleur and a team of NHL alumni. It led to the greatest moment of my hockey playing career.
Rest in peace, Guy Lafleur.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 22, 2022
I was asked to play goal for a team of Amherstburg (Ontario) youth hockey coaches as they opposed an NHL Alumni squad. The game was exactly eight days following the NHL’s first outdoor game between the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers. Several of those who suited up for the Habs in the alumni game that week in Edmonton were also in Amherstburg.
The NHL Alumni arrived in Amherstburg with 10 players in tow. Richard Sevigny was in net, behind a defense of Gaston Gingras, Jim Dorey and Andre (Moose) Dupont. The first forward line featured an all-Montreal unit of Guy Lafleur, Stephane Richer and Benoit Brunet. Gilbert Perreault was between Normand Dupont and Wilf Paiement on the second line, so there was a Hall of Famer on each unit.
Foiling The Flower
From the opening faceoff, it was evident that we were in deep trouble. We were the Washington Generals and they were the Harlem Globetrotters.
Brunet won the draw cleanly back to Dupont. In one fluid motion, Lafleur burst past the defense and Dupont banked a soft pass off the glass right on to The Flower’s tape. Seconds into the game, I am staring down Guy Lafleur on a breakaway. Clearly, I remember thinking how I hoped that was just sweat running down my legs.
I didn’t stop the shot as much as the puck hit my thigh and bounded wide of the net. Still, that wasn’t the most memorable moment.
Later in the game, Brunet held the puck behind my net. A voice in the slot called for a pass. Instantly, without needing to look, I recognized it to be Lafleur.
The Hockey Hall of Fame is saddened to learn of the passing of Honoured Member Guy Lafleur.
We offer our condolences to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/7jksIrfAWY
— Hockey Hall of Fame (@HockeyHallFame) April 22, 2022
Brunet zipped a pass out to the wide-open Flower. As I turned my head and pushed out to take away the angle, Lafleur snapped a quick shot to the glove side. Reacting, I was able to get a piece of the puck with my glove, just enough to deflect it beyond the post.
Angrily, Lafleur slammed his stick down on the ice. I had foiled The Flower, frustrating a two-time Hart Trophy winner and three-time Art Ross Trophy winner.
Sure, he ended up scoring two goals and they won 7-1. But that was my moment and I’ll never forget it.