The Big Three was reunited Thursday at the Canadiens Hall of Fame, and during the 2014-15 NHL season they will be together again when Guy Lapointe’s No. 5 goes up to the rafters at the Bell Centre along with Serge Savard’s No. 18 and Larry Robinson’s No. 19.
Canadiens owner Geoff Molson made it official during a news conference Thursday at the Habs’ Hall of Fame in the Bell Centre that the club will retire Lapointe’s No. 5 during the 2014-15 season. The NHL schedule has yet to be released.
Savard and Robinson were both in attendance for Thursday’s news conference, with Robinson flying in from San Jose, where he is now the Sharks’ director of player development.
“He’s one of the best offensive defencemen that we’ve had and with Larry it’s very hard to put a No. 1 between those two. Larry was taller,” Savard said, drawing laughs from the media in attendance.
Lapointe, Savard and Robinson made up The Big Three on defence for the Canadiens during their dynasty years in the 1970s with Lapointe earning six Stanley Cup rings. All three defencemen are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“It’s a bit of a dream,” Lapointe said. “I never thought that one day I would have my jersey retired. It’s a big day in my life … to be in the Hall of Fame and now this.”
The Canadiens retired Savard’s No. 18 in 2006 and Robinson’s No. 19 in 2007.
“I was very happy and excited when their numbers were retired,” Lapointe said. “I never really thought about it (not happening for him). I just said if it will happen for me, it will happen. But when it does happen you go ‘Wow!’”
Said Molson: “Guy Lapointe is deserving and worthy of being up there with Larry and Serge. I can still visualize him scoring with that slapshot from the point. For over a decade together, they were the best defensive squad in the NHL, by far.”
Lapointe, who is now the coordinator of amateur scouting for the Minnesota Wild, still holds the Canadiens record for most goals by a defenceman in a season with 28 in 1974-75. He ranks second in career goals by a Habs defenceman with 166, trailing Robinson’s 197. Lapointe also holds the team record for most goals by a rookie defenceman with 15.
“Just to have our sweaters up there with all the other great players, it’s a tremendous honour and I’m very, very happy for Guy,” Robinson said.
“I figured it would just be a matter of time, because whenever anybody talks about the great teams they’re always mentioning the Big Three. But every time you looked up there there was only two. So I think it was very fitting and I think Serge said it best when he called me the other day he said it’s too bad that we didn’t get to do it all together. But I’m happy that the Molsons did it and it’s for the right reason. He was a great player and he deserves to be up there.”
Said Molson: “Guy was always on our radar. In a way, he was kind of overshadowed by the Big Three. In points per game he’s one of the leaders in the history of the league among defencemen. He has the numbers. In Guy’s 16-year career, Larry Robinson and Bobby Orr won the Norris Trophy a combined nine times. That was one criterion we looked at with the Hall of Famers when deciding whose jerseys to retire: all of them have won individual awards, except Butch Bouchard, because they didn’t have that award in his day. Guy never won the Norris, but it’s easy to understand why.”
Here’s the complete list of Habs retired numbers:
1. Jacques Plante
2. Doug Harvey
3. Emile (Butch) Bouchard
4. Jean Beliveau
5. Bernard Geoffrion (Guy Lapointe)
7. Howie Morenz
9. Maurice Richard
10. Guy Lafleur
12. Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer
16. Henri Richard and Elmer Lach
18. Serge Savard
19. Larry Robinson
23. Bob Gainey
29. Ken Dryden
33. Patrick Roy
(Photo by Pierre Obendrauf/The Gazette)