By JD Lagrange – We all knew that Guy Lafleur didn’t retire as a Montreal Canadiens under his own terms. We all suspected that the main reason for him making this hasty decision was because of his former teammate turned head coach Jacques Lemaire. What many of us didn’t know was how Serge Savard and Jacques Lemaire treated the team’s biggest name and that, folks, is very disappointing to learn.
In an interview with Paul Arcan a few years ago, Lafleur opened up on the circumstances leading up to his first retirement and the way he left the Canadiens.
Here are a few quotes from his interview…
“These guys when they were given the jobs, Lemaire and Savard, their first goal was to get rid of the players with whom they had played with. The first one to leave was Steve Shutt, the second one was me, then it was Larry [Robinson].”
“When you’re going to training camp, the first year Jacques Lemaire started as head coach, I was on the ice an hour before anyone else. I was sitting on the bench and Lemaire came to see me. The first question, the first meeting I have with him as head coach, he said: ‘With the salary you’re getting (explicit), I hope you’re not going to slack off this year.’ I looked at him and said: ‘Do you want to go (explicit)?’ That’s how it started.”
Lafleur had this to say on the way he made the decision to retire from the Canadiens:
“I knew that they were playing with my mind when they weren’t playing me. It was keeping me up at night. So I went and talked to them and had a good discussion. So I was told: ‘Yes, we’ll play you. We’ll put you on two lines, you’ll kill penalties, you’ll play on the power play’. I told them that it wasn’t what I was asking for, I just wanted some reasonable ice time so that I can get rolling. They said it wasn’t a problem. That night, I played five minutes.”
“That’s when I asked the policeman, after the second period, to go get Serge Savard. I told him that my decision was made, my career was over. The team was heading to Boston that night. The only guy I told it was over was Larry Robinson. As I was walking in the hallway after the game, Serge yelled at me to come over. I was expecting he’d want to talk to me about my decision… he simply said: ‘What are we going to tell the reporters?’ I said: ‘Tell them whatever the (explicit) you want! I’m (explicit) out of here!’ And I left.”
I don’t know about you but I have lost a lot of respect for both Lemaire and Savard with this story. For Savard, it started when he started criticizing Bergevin for the number of Québécois on the team, not taking circumstances into consideration, like the number of QMJHL players in the league. Now, the less I hear about “the Senator” or “Coco”, the better it will be. And notice that neither was at Lafleur’s tribute on Sunday…