Beliveau should be a member of the big happy family for the next ten years. As a drawing power second only to Richard (who, at 34, may expect to play two or three more seasons at the most), Beliveau could earn over $25,000 this season, not including the $10000 he is reportedly pulling in for his role as a sort of roving good-will ambassador for a Montreal brewery. He and his pretty wife Elsie have recently moved into a new house and one of their present off-duty preoccupations is the selection of a suite of furniture—a three-year overdue gift from the club management which took this method of showing him its appreciation for consenting to a Montreal try-out while he was still playing for Quebec. Less distinguished prospects on trial receive a flat payment of $100 a game.
When Les Canadiens in their red uniforms with royal blue and white trim skate out on the Forum ice to the applause from the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience in all sport, the autograph hunters seek out Richard first and then Beliveau. Quite in keeping with their different personalities, Richard, during this brief lull before the battle, retains his usual serious scowl. Beliveau gives his admirers a faint smile. The game under way, they remain individually different although working for the same cause. "With Maurice," said Managing Director Selke, "his moves are powered by instinctive reflexes. Maurice can't learn from lectures. He does everything by instinct and with sheer power. Beliveau, on the other hand, is probably the classiest hockey player I've ever seen. He has a flair for giving you his hockey as a master showman. He is a perfect coach's hockey player because he studies and learns. He's moving and planning all the time, thinking out the play required for each situation. The difference between the two best hockey players in the game today is simply this: Beliveau is a perfectionist, Richard is an opportunist."
As these classifications clearly suggest, the mannerisms of the two men on the ice are quite different. Richard's fiery and explosive temper has gotten him more than once into a hotbed of trouble. Beliveau, for a time, was just the opposite, and, in fact, during his first year with Les Canadiens he acquired the nickname Gentleman Jean when it was discovered around the league that the new rookie had a distinct aversion to mixing it up. His former coach, Dick Irvin, noticing the change that has come over Beliveau during the last year, says of him now, "Like the other great players in the game, Jean was quick to smarten up when he saw the opposition getting the best of him. He'll never be the type to go around looking for trouble, but now he can be as tough as anybody."
EVERY MAN IS IMPORTANT
Statistics back up Irvin's observations: in the season's first 41 games Beliveau (who scored 23 goals and had 23 assists) racked up 98 minutes in penalties—compared to only 58 minutes in 70 games last season. In the same 41 games this year Richard accounted for only 55 penalty minutes—a seemingly conclusive indication that the Montreal riot of last March left him with a deep sense of mortification, as well as with a fierce determination to keep any further scandal from touching the game he loves and to which he has devoted his life.
Coach Blake naturally believes Richard, Beliveau and Geoffrion will all play major roles in carrying Les Canadiens to the NHL title. But he is quick to point out that his league-leading club is a team of much talent, spread amply from the front line to the nets. "I tell my club," says Blake, "that four or five stars don't make a team. Every one in uniform is important. Take our goalie, Jacques Plante: he has the faculty of stopping the very difficult shots. Doug Harvey and Tom Johnson have very few bad games on defense. They are steady—which is just what a coach wants in a hockey player. Of the forwards, Bert Olmstead and Kenny Mosdell are great team players, and Floyd-Curry does a fine job but he gets little credit. He and Don Marshall are the best penalty killers in the league.
"The rookies are promising too. Claude Provost and Jean-Guy Talbot will make fine National Leaguers in time. So will Henri Richard, whom I've got centering for his brother, Maurice." At 19, the Pocket Rocket is already good—good enough to have earned a spot centering for Maurice and Dickie Moore strictly on his own merits. "He's a little small yet," says Blake, "but with his speed we keep telling him not to try to go through the big opposition defensemen, just go around them." In temperament the younger Richard (who has a capable younger brother, Claude, known as the Vest-Pocket Rocket) is more like Beliveau than he is like brother Maurice; he likes to think things out before making his move. And when he does make his move, Pocket Rocket, like his teammates, moves fast. For Les Canadiens, large as a team, have what Blake refers to as "plenty of leg." They play an offensive type of game, at times a rather wide-open one, but the accent is always on shooting. "We have more fellows with good shots," says Blake, "than any other team in the league. Some people look on us as too old a club. They can say what they want. When our old men stop producing we'll bring up younger fellows who will start producing."
The Montreal farm system, which will some day supply the replacements for such veterans as Maurice Richard, Kenny Mosdell and Captain Butch Bouchard, was never geared for mass production of hockey players until Selke, who had learned hockey management under Conn Smythe at Toronto, moved in as managing director of Les Canadiens in 1946. Today, less than 10 years after he first rejuvenated the system by organizing a nine-team junior league within the city of Montreal, Selke can proudly point to 750 teams and 10,000 hockey players either owned outright, sponsored or in some way "influenced" by the Club de Hockey Canadien. This vast empire, now directed largely by Kenny Reardon, onetime Montreal All-Star defenseman, is bigger than the farm systems of all other National Hockey League clubs combined. It stretches from the province of Quebec across the Dominion to Winnipeg, Regina and Kitchener, and down into the U.S., where Montreal assistance is recognized in such cities as Seattle and Cincinnati.
"We have no trouble getting youngsters interested in playing in a Montreal uniform," says Selke. "We have three natural selling points: success of the farm clubs (every major Montreal affiliate finished last season in either first or second place in its respective league); Maurice Richard—and now Jean Beliveau. For years kids have wanted to play where Richard plays. Beliveau is just one example, and now, for years to come, kids will want to play on a team with Beliveau."
Like Beliveau and Richard, roughly half of Les Canadiens are French Canadian, and Selke likes the mixture not only because of the pleasure it affords the 70% French-Canadian Forum audience, but also because "it gives our team a Latin flair which is good for us everywhere. However, we're really more concerned with ability than nationality. If a boy is good enough, he can play on our team no matter who he is."