In fact, we've heard it for years. Having be born three years after Beliveau retired, I have heard it all my life. It is an accepted truth, one that you will never find anyone deny.
My question today is - will we ever see another hockey player like him? Will we ever see a superstar hockey player who is an even better person? Will we ever see a hockey player so universally loved work so hard to maintain his place on the pedestal we put him on?
The answer is almost certainly no, because he is a throwback to another time. Wayne Gretzky is the modern equivalent, but he is more rock star or more Hollywood than the regal statesman Beliveau was. And that is largely because times have changed. That's how we view our athletic heroes nowadays - with starry, envious eyes rather than with that same great awe and respect.
Beliveau was a special person, but by no means is he a product of his time. The great hockey players of the good ol' days - Rocket Richard, Gordie Howe, Doug Harvey, Bobby Hull, Eddie Shore - had their various flaws off the ice. How our all-consuming media covers such indiscretions and how we the public view them have changed.
The truth is the NHL is full of great people to this day. Perhaps we will never see players transcend the whole league like Beliveau did, but in every market we can appreciate hockey stars who strive to make a difference in their communities and charitable endeavors. It is up to us to celebrate them.
Consider that to be Jean Beliveau's greatest legacy in hockey.
Reminds one more of Joe DiMaggio than any other athlete; an older time, a different grace, elegance even.
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