As the news broke of Guy Lafleur’s passing on April 22, locals warmly remembered the day nine years ago when the hockey legend landed his helicopter in a field outside the Huntingdon Regional Arena. He then stepped behind the bench to coach the Montreal Canadiens alumni team in a charity game against a squad of local players.
In the lead-up to the opening faceoff, the former Habs players signed autographs for starstruck fans while taking some playful jabs at the local team. In an interview between periods, Lafleur noted how nice it was to be able to spend time giving back to people by playing charity games in small-town arenas throughout the province.
“He was absolutely wonderful,” says Heather L’Heureux, who was then the president of the Régie intermunicipale de la patinoire regionale de Huntingdon, of Guy Lafleur. She laughs while recalling the day she was asked whether there was an airport in Huntingdon. From that moment on, L’Heureux says she knew local hockey fans were in for a day to remember.
Joey Robidoux, who owns the C.J. Kyle dealership in Huntingdon, was on the ice that day – but what impressed him the most about Lafleur, he says, happened prior to even stepping on the ice. “They had me bring a truck over to bring him to the rink,” he says, but when Lafleur exited his helicopter and saw the fans lining the road, he turned and said simply, “I’ll walk.”
“He shook everybody’s hand, from where he landed to the arena,” says Robidoux, admitting it had been something special to see. Robidoux’s son Julien was then selected as one of three young boys to go up in the helicopter for a ride over the town. “He definitely still remembers this,” says Robidoux, noting that he and his son had shared some memories the day it was announced Lafleur had passed away.
The Montreal Canadiens icon lay in state at the Bell Centre in Montreal on May 1 and 2, before a national funeral on May 3 at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral.