MONTREAL | Joe Sakic was only 20 and in his second season in Quebec when Guy Lafleur set foot in the Nordiques’ dressing room.
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“We were a young team rebuilding when Guy Lafleur arrived. For us it was unreal because we all saw him play as kids when he scored 50 or 60 goals in a Canadiens jersey. We were all excited to find ourselves in the same dressing room as a legend. »
“He took me under his wing. As much as he was a good hockey player, he was a good person. And maybe more. Despite his status, he made everyone around him feel special. I liked his sense of humor. He was a very good role model for the young people in the team. I watched him interact with the supporters. As a young person you want to be inspired by a model like him. He was always generous with people. »
Colorado Avalanche general manager Sakic took the time to travel to Montreal to pay tribute to his former teammate, even as his team prepared to open the first round of the playoffs against the Nashville-based Predators that same day.
“I wanted to be there, it was natural,” he replied. I was lucky enough to lodge with him on the street. He taught me a lot, not just on the ice. Guy included everyone, he respected everyone. And that’s why people loved him so much. »
Autographs for hours
In his first season at Lafleur, Sakic achieved young star status in the NHL with 102 points (39 goals, 63 assists). But collectively, the Nordiques didn’t often win. They had the worst season in their history with 12 small wins and 31 points in 1989-1990.
“This season has taken a toll on my morale and Guy has noticed,” Sakic recalled. After a game on the street, Guy sat with me on the bus and talked to me. I can’t exactly repeat the exact words. There are things that aren’t said in front of the camera. But he had found the right words to encourage me. »
Sakic became even more aware of the extent of the Lafleur phenomenon during a trip to western Canada.
“I remember our last trip to Western Canada. We were in Winnipeg and had waited an hour on the bus. Guy was outside still signing autographs. He could spend 90 minutes or two hours talking to fans and signing autographs. In Edmonton there were even more. I think he stayed three or four hours after the game. I have never forgotten that. »
“He stayed close to the people. He wanted to make fans happy, he loved people and he had a big heart. We know what he did on the ice. He was a flower. I watched it as a kid. The Canadiens were my father’s favorite team in the ’70s, Guy was the most exciting player of that dynasty. And I had the chance to play with him early in my career. »
“Guy got on the ice 30 minutes before anyone else, even in his final years in Quebec,” he continued. I stared at him wide-eyed for the first few minutes. But I made friends with him quickly, he had the gift of making himself feel good. »