ANAHEIM, Calif. - After skating at practice Wednesday, Flyers forward Vinny Lecavalier fondly recalled his idol, Jean Beliveau, the Montreal Canadiens great who died Tuesday at age 83.
During his prime, Lecavalier's graceful style - on and off the ice - was sometimes compared to Beliveau's, and he portrayed the Hall of Famer in the 2005 movie The Rocket: The Legend of Rocket Richard.
One of the most beloved players in Canadiens history, Beliveau scored 507 goals, won 10 Stanley Cup championships, and was captain for 10 seasons before his 1971 retirement.
Beliveau has his name engraved on the Cup a record 17 times, including seven while working in Montreal's front office.
"He's such a great example of how to be, on and off the ice," Lecavalier said. "It was obviously a tough day for the hockey world" Tuesday.
During his 14 years in Tampa Bay, Lecavalier wore the No. 4 out of respect for Beliveau; he has worn No. 40 with the Flyers because No. 4 was retired in honor of Barry Ashbee.
"My grandfather is a huge hockey fan and he loved Jean Beliveau, so that's why I wore No. 4 since I was 3 or 4 years old," Lecavalier said. "I've always heard stories about how great he was, and what he did for Montreal and hockey since I was a young boy. He's always been kind of a [role model]. I didn't see him play, but I've seen clips of him. Just a great example to follow [on] how to be an athlete and how to conduct yourself."
In his Montreal home, Lecavalier has a photo hanging of himself - perhaps 9 years old at the time - and Beliveau.
"I think it was [at my] brother's tournament," he said. ". . . You see Jean Beliveau and obviously you want your picture taken with him. . . . It was a great honor to meet him."
After he reached the NHL, Lecavalier met and talked with Beliveau a few times. "Just a nice person who has a lot of respect for everybody," he said.
As far as portraying Beliveau in a movie, Lecavalier said, "It was pretty cool. They called me and said, 'Well do you want to play Jean Beliveau?' And I was like, 'This is a great honor.' Just to put on that Montreal Canadiens jersey, that old wool jersey that they wore in the '50s and '60s, with the Canadiens sign and the No. 4, it was a great experience. . . . I wasn't the main actor in the movie, but just to play the few scenes I did, it was great. It was a lot of fun."
Former Flyers Mike Ricci and Ian Laperriere were also in the movie. Laperriere is now a Flyers assistant.