Very sad news out of the Canadiens family this Saturday morning: former captain Émile (Butch) Bouchard, a member of the Habs from 1941-56, died early this morning at Longueuil in South Shore Montreal following a long illness. Surrounded by his family, including son Pierre, a fellow former Habs defenceman, Big Butch was 92.
Bouchard captained the Canadiens from 1948-56, following goaler Bill Durnan with the C and succeeded by Maurice (Rocket) Richard. The 1966 Hall of Fame-inductee was a strapping stay-at-home defenceman who could get the job done with punishing force. He won the Stanley Cup four times with the Habs, incredibly arriving with the team just six years after he’d learned to skate.
Don’t miss Kevin Shea’s terrific one-on-one feature chronicling a remarkable life in and out of hockey. None other than the great Jean Béliveau said that Big Butch “served as my model” as captain of the Canadiens, which Béliveau wore with legendary distinction from 1961 through his retirement in 1971.
Canadiens goaltender Gerry McNeil sprawls to make a save against the Detroit Red Wings at the Detroit Olympia during an early 1950s game, defenceman Émile (Butch) Bouchard moving in to clear the rebound. McNeil, who died in June 2004, had stored this remarkable photo for decades in a wooden barrel in his basement, folded in half (the sharp crease remains visible down the middle of the image). It was discovered by the goaler’s son, David McNeil, who kindly offered it to The Gazette in 2009.
© James (Scotty) Kilpatrick, courtesy David McNeil
Highlights from the Canadiens’ centennial game ceremony, during which the Habs retired Butch’s No. 3 and fellow icon Elmer Lach’s No. 16:
In French, a nice video profile of Butch:
Wonderful 1958 visit to the home of Butch:
1947-48 Canadiens, the season before Big Butch (middle, back row) assumed the captaincy. Goaler Bill Durnan was wearing the C, having inherited it from the injured and retiring Toe Blake (front row, right).
James Rice Studio photo
Canadiens in 1952-53. Captain Butch Bouchard now wearing the C; beside him: a rookie Jean Béliveau. Directly beneath them: Bernie Geoffrion, Dickie Moore.
Butch (left) and fellow Habs icon Elmer Lach enjoy a cool convertible parade from the Montreal Forum to the new Molson Centre in March 1996.
John Mahoney, Gazette
Butch (left) and Elmer settle in for their club’s historic team photo at the Canadiens’ centennial game on Dec. 4, 2009.
François Lacasse, NHLI via Getty Images