The period of remembrance that concludes today with a national funeral for Jean Beliveau struck a perfect balance between mourning his death and celebrating his life.
Mr. Beliveau's passing is an enormous loss. He was the greatest living embodiment of the class and dignity that defines the Montreal Canadiens. The empty Bell Center seat draped with his jersey and the raw emotions of strong and seasoned men fortunate enough to count themselves among his friends are powerful testaments to the sadness of the occasion. But so much of what we've witnessed over the past several days has been spiritual balm - the endless stories of Mr. Beliveau's personal touch with the common man, and his family's spirit of generosity in publicly sharing their private grief with great humility and grace. The crowd's emotional embrace of Mrs. Beliveau at the Bell Center last night and her reaction to it resonates alongside the spontaneous tribute to the Rocket on closing night at the Forum and Saku Koivu's comeback from cancer as examples of how the Canadiens transcend hockey, and are an essential and enduring part of Montreal's soul.
The sense of occasion demonstrated by the franchise, the Beliveau family and the fans this week is in keeping with a tradition that exists in no small part because of the dignified example set by Jean Beliveau himself over more than six decades. We have honored the man by emulating him.
He would be proud of us all.