MONTREAL – Hockey legend Guy Lafleur may be stripped of some of the country’s highest accolades over being convicted this month for giving contradictory testimony at his son’s bail hearing.
Lafleur, dubbed the Blond Demon and the Flower and lionized for his prolific scoring and outstanding play, faces losing both the Order of Quebec and the Order of Canada due to his ongoing legal woes.
“It’s a delicate situation,” the Order of Quebec’s director general, Suzanne Moffet, said Saturday, noting this is the first time the order has ever considered revoking an award.
“It’s Quebec’s most prestigious honour and its members are our ambassadors. So in a situation like this one it’s clear the council is considering the issue and is examining all its dimensions so it can make the fairest recommendation to (Premier Jean Charest).”
Moffet says the council will wait until after Lafleur’s sentencing before tabling a decision.
“It’s really up to the council. I can’t say what decision they’ll come to at this stage. The legal process will follow its course.”
The 57-year-old former Montreal Canadiens right-winger will learn June 18 whether he pays a fine or receives a prison sentence to be served in the community for giving contradictory evidence in court.
Still, the news is not all bleak.
A spokesman for Charest – who has the final say in whether the one-time NHL superstar gets to keep his provincial honour – says the premier had no intention of revoking Lafleur’s title.
But he added the cabinet will have to look into the matter if the advisory council recommends otherwise.
Lucie Caron, spokeswoman for the secretary of the Governor General of Canada, said the governing body of the Order of Canada hasn’t discussed Lafleur’s case – yet.
“These kinds of cases are brought to the attention of the advisory council,” she said, noting that ultimately, the decision rests in the hands of the Governor General.
According to the order’s constitution, the advisory council will consider the termination of the appointment to the order if the person has been convicted of a criminal offence.
The Order has been revoked only three times in its history, including the 1998 termination of Alan Eagleson’s national order.
Eagleson, a former hockey agent and once one of the game’s most powerful men, was stripped of the honour following his conviction the same year on a slew of charges including fraud.
But a criminal conviction doesn’t guarantee a termination of the country’s highest civilian honour.
For example, former publisher Conrad Black retains his title even while serving prison time in the United States for fraud and obstruction.
Lafleur’s lawyer Jean-Pierre Rancourt refused to comment Saturday on his client’s standing with the either the national or provincial orders. And despite the hockey legend’s current tribulations, he retains widespread support in Quebec.
Lafleur became a household name in the province for leading the Canadiens to five Stanley Cup wins and for being the team’s all-time scoring leader with 1,246 points. He’s also a two-time NHL MVP with 17 hockey seasons under his belt, playing for the Habs, the New York Rangers and the Quebec Nordiques.
The Canadiens recently said they will keep him as one of their five ambassadors, along with Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer and Rejean Houle.
Quebec media has also largely stood behind him, slamming police for being overly zealous when they issued a public warrant for his arrest in early 2008.
Lafleur’s legal troubles began in 2007 after testifying at his son Mark’s bail hearing that his son always respected his court-ordered curfew and never consumed drugs and alcohol on his watch. But that was discounted in a subsequent hearing when the court heard the elder Lafleur drove his son to a hotel for an intimate encounter with a 16-year-old girlfriend on two occasions.
The hockey great was named to the Order of Canada in 1980 and the Order of Quebec in 2005.
He was also named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.