Hockey fans pay tribute to NHL legend Jean Béliveau

Hockey fans are mourning the loss of one of the NHL’s greatest stars, former Montreal Canadiens player Jean Béliveau, who passed away peacefully on Tuesday night at age 83.

Famous for his incredible 17 Stanley Cup wins – the most championships won by an individual to date – Jean was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 and consistently ranks among the top 10 NHL players of all time.

Hockey legacy aside, the athlete from Trois-Rivières, Quebec was a Companion of the Order of Canada and a member of Canada's Walk of Fame, as well as one of the most personally beloved players in the league, with words like “classy” and “graceful” often used to describe his friendly demeanour.

“Jean Béliveau was a great leader, a gentleman and arguably the greatest ambassador our game has ever known,” said Geoff Molson, the president of the Montreal Canadiens.

Canadian Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser, too, took to Twitter to pay homage to the hockey star, writing, “Jean Béliveau was the classiest man. Returned every piece of fan mail with a hand-written letter.”

Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement offering his condolences.

“Mr. Béliveau will be remembered as a hockey giant who inspired a nation with his outstanding skill, humility and pure love of the game," he said. "His legacy lives on in the records he set, the legions of hockey players that he inspired, and the deep love he shared with his home province of Quebec.”

Jean will also be remembered for his charitable endeavours. Upon retirement in 1971, he set up the Jean Béliveau Foundation, transferring the foundation to the Society for Disabled Children in 1993.

A statue of Jean stands outside Montreal's Bell Centre.

In 1994, the former hockey star was offered the position of Governer General of Canada by Prime Minister Jean Chretien, but politely declined in order to spend more time with his family.

Jean is survived by his wife, Elise, their daughter, Helene, and granddaughters Mylene and Magalie.

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