MONTREAL — Dickie Moore remembered longtime teammate Jean Beliveau as a “great man” on Wednesday as dignitaries, fans and former players paid respect to the late Canadiens giant.
“It is a tremendous honour to stand here for my teammate and friend Jean Beliveau,” said Moore, the first person to deliver an eulogy at the emotional funeral.
“Everyone has said so many wonderful words about him, words like strength, dedication, devotion and elegance.
“I was lucky to have been with Jean for many glorious years with the Canadiens, lucky to share amazing moments together, lucky to have him as a friend.
“Would you rather be good or lucky? I was lucky. He was good,” he said to chuckles from the congregation.
The ceremony for the 83-year-old Beliveau was held at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral and was presided over by the Archbishop of Montreal, Christian Lepine.
Beliveau’s casket was draped with the flag of the Canadiens.
The designated pallbearers were former Canadiens players Yvan Cournoyer, Phil Goyette, Guy Lafleur, Robert Rousseau, Serge Savard and Jean-Guy Talbot.
Those attending the funeral included Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Gov. Gen. David Johnston, former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Brian Mulroney, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and ex-Quebec premiers Jean Charest and Bernard Landry.
Former NHLers included Mario Lemieux and Luc Robitaille.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also travelled to Montreal.
“He was just great to be around,” Bettman told reporters before the service. “And he’s going to be terribly missed.”
He was asked about suggestions that the Conn Smythe Trophy could eventually be named after Beliveau.
“We’ve been focused more on his passing and that loss and celebrating his life and I know at the appropriate time we’ll focus on what is a remembrance fitting for someone like Jean Beliveau,” Bettman said.
Harper described Beliveau as someone who transcended his sport.
“We’ve obviously lost a great citizen, somebody who was admired and respected by everybody everywhere in the country,” he said on his way into the service. “I certainly have admired Mr. Beliveau since I was a young boy.
“He was an individual who was great in his sport but ultimately even greater than his sport. He’s already part of the Hockey Hall of Fame and now he’s become part of the history of our country.”
Team owner Geoff Molson and former Beliveau teammates Cournoyer, Savard, Ken Dryden also delivered eulogies.
A few hundred seats were reserved for fans on a first come, first served basis. Those who couldn’t get inside were able to watch the ceremony on giant screens nearby.
Montreal police, who have been wearing camouflage pants and red ballcaps in recent months to protest pension plan reforms, said they were wearing their regulation uniforms out of respect for Beliveau.
Beliveau won the Stanley Cup 10 times as a player and seven more as a team executive. He entered the Hockey Hall of Fame the year after his retirement in 1971.
Thousands of people filed into the Bell Centre on Sunday and Monday to pay tribute to Beliveau and shake hands with his wife, Elise.
On Tuesday night, the Canadiens honoured Beliveau before their game against the Vancouver Canucks.