Canadian hockey player
Right wing/center Guy Lafleur was one of the best scorers of his generation. Winning three Art Ross Trophies as the National Hockey League's (NHL) leading scorer, Lafleur scored with power and grace. He was an all-around player, with strong skating, puck handling, and passing skills, an accurate shot, and the strength to handle defenders. Lafleur also won several Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy as play-off most valuable player, and a Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.
Lafleur was born on September 20, 1951 in Thurso, Quebec, Canada, the only son of five children born to Rejean (a welder) and Pierette Lafleur. Lafleur learned to skate on a local outdoor rink that his father and their neighbors built. The young Lafleur loved hockey from an early age, to the point that he would sleep in his equipment.
When Lafleur was fifteen-years-old, he began playing junior hockey first for the Quebec Aces from 1966-69, then for the Quebec Remparts in 1969-71. He had an amazing season in 1970-71. In sixty-two games, Lafleur scored 209 points.
Drafted by the Canadiens
In the 1971 Amateur Draft, Lafleur was selected in the first round by the Montreal Canadiens. When he was drafted, it was with high expectations. He was to save the struggling franchise. Though he scored at least fifty points in each of his first three seasons, he did not post brilliant numbers until the mid-1970s.
When Lafleur's contract with the Canadiens expired in 1974, he had an offer to join the World Hockey League's Quebec Nordiques. Though he did not take the offer, it would have removed him from the pressure of expectations of the Canadiens. Instead he plowed through, refusing to be intimated by those who played tough defense on him. Lafleur continued to develop his own strong defensive skills to complement his artistic offensive skills.
Became Leading Scorer
The 1974-75 season was Lafleur's best offensive year to date, with fifty-three goals and sixty-six assists in the regular season. In eleven playoff games, he had twelve goals and seven assists. This was the first of six consecutive seasons in which he scored fifty plus goals.
By 1975-76, Lafleur had hit his stride, winning the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer in 1976 and the Lester B. Pearson Award. He had fifty-six goals and sixty-nine assists. He also won the Stanley Cup against Philadelphia in four games. Lafleur contributed two game winning goals.
Lafleur continued to dominate in the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons, winning the Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award, and the Stanley Cup again in both seasons. In 1977, he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the playoffs. In both playoffs, Lafleur scored ten goals and eleven assists.
|1951||Born in Thurso, Quebec, Canada, on September 20|
|1966-69||Plays junior hockey for the Quebec Aces|
|1969-71||Plays junior hockey for the Quebec Remparts|
|1970-71||In 62 games for the Remparts, scores 209 points|
|1971||Drafted in first round of the Amateur Draft; begins professional playing career with the Montreal Canadiens|
|1984||Retires from hockey with the Canadiens; briefly works for the team|
|1988||Makes return to professional hockey with the New York Rangers|
|1989||Signs with the Quebec Nordiques|
|1991||Retires from professional hockey|
|1992||Works as director of corporate affairs for the Quebec Nordiques|
|1993||Leaves the Nordiques to be vice president of Titrex|
|1999||Earns helicopter pilot license|
By this time, Lafleur was recognized as a great hockey player. He told Robert Fachet of the Washington Post, "It is more difficult playing for the Canadiens. There is lots more pressure on you. But I'm sure most guys on our team would not want to go to a team that's not winning. You never get tired of winning." He capitalized on his fame by doing many commercials in the late 1970s. He won his last Stanley Cup in 1979.
Though Lafleur continued to post high numbers in the late 1970s, he could not match them in the first half of the 1980s. Though he had eighty-four points in the 1981-82 season, he feuded with coaches, including Jacques Lemaire, who put a defense-first system on the ice. Lafleur also had tax and injury problems, which affected his game.
Lafleur only played in nineteen games in the 1984-85 season. His speed and skating skills had diminished, and he was played on the third or fourth line. Lafleur was frustrated by his lack of playing time and burned out by his dealings with management. He felt his coach destroyed his confidence by not using him in big goal situations. Scoring only two goals and three assists in the nineteen games, Lafleur retired from hockey in November 1984 because management would not change.
After retiring, Lafleur was hired to work for the Canadiens in public relations, but this was short-lived. He continued playing hockey in a recreational league. The lure of playing professionally was too great. After he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1988, Lafleur decided to unretire a few days later. He began to train in earnest as soon as he was mentally ready. As Stan Fischler quoted him as saying in The All-New Hockey's 100, "Hockey is like a drug for me. I am hooked. I can't do anything about it."
Returned to Professional Hockey
After being turned down by several teams, Lafleur went to training camp in 1988 with the New York Rangers. He played well enough to earn a spot on the team. Though Lafleur was not the same player he was at the height of his career, he made contributions. He scored eighteen goals and twenty-seven assists in sixty-seven games, and gave the team stability in the face of front office turmoil.
In 1989, Lafleur signed with the Quebec Nordiques when the Rangers did not match their offer. Thus he was traded to Quebec for $100,000 and a draft choice. Lafleur played for two more seasons before finally retiring in 1991.
After spending a year working in the front office of the Quebec Nordiques as director of corporate affairs, Lafleur went to Titrex as a vice president of public relations in 1993. But hockey still had its lure for him. He played in a number of old timers games, including the Old timer's Hockey Challenge Tour, which benefited the Ontario Special Olympics. He also worked for the Montreal Canadiens as a Special Ambassador, making special appearances for the team. In recognition of his impact on hockey, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League named their most valuable player in the playoffs trophy after him. Off the ice, in 1999, Lafleur earned his helicopter pilot license and considered starting a related transport business.
|Canadiens: Montreal Canadiens (NHL); Nordiques: Quebec Nordiques (NHL); Rangers: New York Rangers (NHL).|
Over the course of his career, Lafleur played in 1028 regular season games, with 509 goals and 793 assists. In 128 playoff games, he had fifty-eight goals and seventy-six assists. Known as "the Flower" (the literal meaning of his last name), his legacy was his undying love for the game and his scoring expertise. As sportswriter Bill Libby was quoted as saying on LegendsofHockey.net, "He is an artist on skates, creating scoring plays the way a painter puts a vivid scene on a canvas with a brush. … He is a spectacular athlete in a spectacular sport and it is wonderful watching him work."
Awards and Accomplishments
|1970-71||Quebec Junior Hockey League All-Star (first team)|
|1975||All-Star (first team)|
|1976||Won Art Ross Trophy; won the Stanley Cup; All-Star (first team); won Lester B. Pearson Award|
|1977||Won Art Ross Trophy; won Hart Trophy; won Conn Smythe Trophy; won Stanley Cup; All-Star (first team); won Lester B. Pearson Award|
|1978||Won Art Ross Trophy; won Hart Trophy; won Stanley Cup; All-Star (first team); won Lester B. Pearson Award|
|1979||Won Stanley Cup; All-Star (first team)|
|1980||All-Star (first team)|
|1988||Elected to the Hall of Fame|
Address: 14 Place du Moulin, L'ile-Bizard, Quebec H9E 1N2 Canada.
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Sketch by A. Petruso