He was referred to as Jean Marc Beliveau the first time he appeared in The Hockey News back in 1951. He was 19 and playing junior hockey, but was better than a lot of players in the NHL… or so the story goes.
The hockey world lost a great this week when Jean Beliveau passed away at age 83. His first appearance in The Hockey News was as a 19-year-old junior sensation for the Quebec Citadels, when he went by the name Jean Marc Beliveau. The roar back then was Jean Marc was better than half the centers in the NHL. Here’s a re-print of that story from Vol. 4, No. 25 of The Hockey News, March 24, 1951.
Beliveau Most Fabulous Junior in Ice History
Better Than Half NHL Centers, Some say Detroit Scribe rates Him as Popular in Quebec City as Richard in Montreal; He’ll play for Habs By Marshall Dann Quebec City, Que. – Jean Marc Beliveau may be the greatest junior in hockey history and the finest prospect ever to loom for pro hockey. Or, he may not.
But you can’t argue one point about young Jean Marc. He absolutely is the most fabulous young player the hockey world has ever known. It appears incredible that Jean Marc ever shall create the excitement and furor in pro ranks he already has achieved as a junior. For an example of his tremendous buildup, consider this fact: Beliveau is as famous and popular in these parts as is Rocket Richard in Montreal. That’s reaching just about the highest star in public opinion. Beliveau is due to step into the National Hockey League next season, and NHL followers can tuck away his name for future reference. Not a man in hockey will deny that Beliveau is headed for a brilliant future in the big-time. Currently Beliveau is playing for the Quebec Citadels. His next step is expected to be into a uniform of the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal staked a claim to him long ago, but must clear a costly hurdle to sign him. “The next Richard… best junior player hockey has known….better than half the centers in the NHL today… finest prospect in history, the 1952 Calder Cup winner.”—- Those are some of the quotes from level-headed hockey business men who have watched Beliveau. Exaggeration might seem indicated, with the buildup better than the boy. Yet, he is involved in the biggest money deals ever linked with a youngster.
No Beliveau, No Team! When Beliveau was 15, a promoter agreed to sponsor an amateur club only if young Jean Marc played on the team. Beliveau’s father signed a civil contract promising the boy’s services until this season when he passes the junior age limit. For Quebec in the current campaign which ended two weeks ago, Beliveau paced the Citadels to first place by scoring 61 goals and 61 assists in 46 games. He is a big impressive figure, standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 190 pounds which makes him bigger than any other player. He is durable, a fine playmaker, possesses an accurate and blazing shot, and above all has magnetic appeal. Beliveau’s presence in the lineup has meant an estimated increase of 5,000 more fans for each of Quebec City’s 23 home games, several of which packed a new 12,500 seat arena. A life-sized picture of Beliveau, incidentally, is the lone decoration in the arena lobby. No man in hockey today owns that drawing power. Not even Richard. The money that represents, and the contract signed by his father are the only reasons Beliveau isn’t playing for the Canadiens right now. Fantastic offers were made to swing a deal which Coach Dick Irvin says “would have us a playoff berth already if we had Beliveau.”
“Amateurism is Profitable” It is estimated that this teenager will pick up almost $20,000 this season. His “amateur” contract is said to net $8,000, plus a $4,000 off-season job. A “Beliveau night” will bring in cash and gifts in addition to the house his family now lives in. Montreal probably will go as high as $25,000 to land him this summer. While not comparable to baseball, it’s an all-time peak for hockey. Presumably he’ll get a two-year contract stripped of all minor-league clauses at about $10,000 a year (an unheard of salary for a rookie) along with a $5,000 bonus for signing. Irvin, who doesn’t toy lightly with Richard’s reputation, says “Beliveau will be the next Richard, and worth every cent it costs to get him to play center alongside the Rocket.” Until this year Billy Taylor was considered the finest junior player of all time when he was a sensation in the 1930s. Taylor lived up to promise in his NHL play at Toronto and Detroit. In the post-war era, Metro Prystai probably has drawn the biggest buildup as a junior while with Moose Jaw. Prystai also came up to expectations in his work at Chicago and Detroit. It will be interesting to watch Beliveau in future seasons, for no boy has ever stepped up the golden trail to hockey fame and fortune with more fanfare than this Quebec giant.
Two for his Mates – Picture caption Jean Marc Beliveau, the most fabulous ever to lace on a skate shows his score to The Hockey News cameraman. Beliveau, second from the left, is the mainstay, of the Quebec Citadels junior club and is as popular in the provincial capital as Richard is in Montreal or Kennedy in Toronto. The Citadels, currently locked in a playoff battle with junior Canadiens are favored to bring Quebec City its first Memorial Cup. Two goals and one assist, says Beliveau to mates Jean Plante, left, and Camile Henri in the back. Rainer Makila is on the right.