Guy Lafleur 1951-2022 |  The Last of the Supermen

Guy Lafleur 1951-2022 | The Last of the Supermen

Of course, at 15, you don’t feel like you’re living history with a big CH. Also, when my cousin Claude invited me to the fifth game of the final, at the Forum, and the Canadian won a fourth Cup in a row, I could not guess that a world had just ended before our eyes.

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In this vanished world, Guy Lafleur would reign forever, as surely as spring brought another victory parade down Sainte-Catherine Street.

In this world, he triumphed over everything that was bad (the Flyers) or ugly (the Bruins). It was a more-than-perfect world, where his poetic goals gave us chills even on the radio.

In my first 15 years of life in this world, the Canadian had won the Cup 10 times. It was a kind of natural law, which suffered from rare exceptions, aberrations quickly forgotten like snow in July.

In that world, Justice triumphed and our hero had the number 10, mathematical proof of his perfection.

I know that religious metaphors are abused. Nevertheless: Guy Lafleur was announced by Maurice Richard and Jean Béliveau. More than the heir to a tradition, Lafleur was a bit like the necessary fulfillment of a prophecy. He was not only the best, the most beautiful; he was the chosen one.

Because it was written that each generation would know its Quebec hero in our team. It had been like this since 1942, as well as always.

Richard was the symbol of awakening, of the revolt of a dominated people; Béliveau, the entry into modernity; Lafleur, the baby boomer, his emancipation.

This was before globalization and the Americanization of hockey. In 1980, 82% of players on the 17 NHL teams were Canadian.

It was just before the huge salaries. Before the players-companies. Hockey players, especially game geniuses like Lafleur, were still exploited.

After this 1979 Cup, Guy Lafleur scored 50 goals one last time. But already the empire of the Canadian had come to an end. We do not realize it at the time, when an empire dies, neither in England nor in Austria-Hungary. But one day, it’s over, even if the illusion survives. There was an astonishing Cup in 1986, then another, disconcerting, in 1993.

But this well-ordered world where the Next Great Quebecer belongs to us, because the Club must win, this world had vanished. The proof: Mario Lemieux played in Pittsburgh.

Now, the Canadian is a club among 32. It has its ups, like last year, it has its downs, as very often, when mediocrity makes it dream of a good repechage. He is counting on the lottery to recover.

This club is no longer the repository of a mission or a destiny written in an imaginary sacred book. It has become globalized, denationalized. This is the time. Our horizons have also widened, that’s good, so much the better, notice. Today’s nation’s heroes ride robots on Mars.

But this vanished world where tutelary powers watched over the nation’s hockey club really existed. I experienced it that way, I felt it in my gut, like millions of people.

In this mythical world, the greatest was called Guy Lafleur.

He was also the last of that “superhuman race” of which Alfred DesRochers spoke. We are a bit his fallen sons.

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