The Montreal Canadiens played their first home game since the Dec. 2 death of franchise legend Jean Béliveau at age 83. And, in keeping with the spirit of arguably the most gracious men ever to play hockey, the organization honored him with an unforgettable pre-game ceremony that will bring tears to the eyes of even the most hardened heart.
After Béliveau lay in wake at the Bell Centre for the past two days, the pre-game ceremony began with a three-minute video tribute screened on the ice of the arena and a beautiful instrumental track. It continued on with tributes to the former Habs captain in both of Canada's official languages and an extended look at his life, which he lived with extraordinary dignity on a public stage.
Everyone in attendance was moved by the 15-minute ceremony, including Béliveau's widow, Elise, who was moved to tears by the outpouring of emotion in the building. Béliveau's funeral will take place Wednesday, and the entire country will have the chance to say goodbye then. But this was the Canadiens, on behalf of the sport and all its fans, saluting Béliveau one last time.
And just like Béliveau lived his life, they couldn't have done any better.