Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Yvan Cournoyer - The Pinnacle
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Following Henri Richard's retirement at the conclusion of the 1974-75 season, teammates unanimously chose Yvan Cournoyer as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
When the roll call of players who assumed the captaincy of the Montreal Canadiens is viewed, the list resembles a who's who of the greats of the game. In fact, between 1940 and 1989, ten players wore the prestigious 'C' on the breast of their sweater for Montreal — every single one of them an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In 1940, Toe Blake was the captain. In an odd twist of hockey history, he was replaced in 1948 by netminder Bill Durnan. That fall, Butch Bouchard wore the 'C', continuing until 1956. Rocket Richard was captain between 1956 and 1960. That year, he was replaced for one season by Doug Harvey. The great Jean Beliveau captained the Canadiens from 1961 until 1971, replaced by Henri Richard. The 'Pocket Rocket' was captain from 1971 to 1975.

In his first season sporting the 'C' (1975-76), Cournoyer was presented with the Stanley Cup on behalf of his teammates. It was the first of four straight celebrations for both Yvan and the Montreal Canadiens.
In 1975, the team selected Yvan Cournoyer as captain of the Montreal Canadiens. "I was named captain of the team by the players. Everybody voted," Yvan recalls. It was a unanimous vote, and Cournoyer distinguished himself wearing the 'C'. "It was a tremendous honour to be captain of the Montreal Canadiens after the Rocket, Jean and Henri. That was quite something to be named and it gave me great confidence to be captain of the team."

The Canadiens of the mid-seventies are considered a dynasty. Montreal won the Stanley Cup championship in four consecutive seasons, and the name 'Yvan Cournoyer' is inscribed on the Stanley Cup on each of them. Cournoyer accepted the Stanley Cup on behalf of his team in 1976, 1977 and 1978. "As captain of the team, I played harder than I ever had played in my life," states Yvan. "I enjoyed representing the team. We were a very close team. There was no French or English. When we lost, we lost together, when we won, we won together."

Serge Savard, who replaced Cournoyer as captain of the Canadiens, rides with Yvan in 1976's Stanley Cup parade down Montreal's Ste-Catherine Street.
Yvan described the role he played as captain in the 1970's. "I think a captain then was more like an assistant to the coach. I was the mediator between the coach and the players. Today, if there's a problem, the players say, 'Talk to my agent.'"

When Cournoyer was forced to retire fifteen games into the 1978-79 season due to back problems, he was replaced by Serge Savard. That spring, although Yvan had played just a handful of games and was unable to contribute with any significance, the Montreal Canadiens insisted his name be included with those engraved on the Stanley Cup. It was the tenth and final time Cournoyer would be part of a Stanley Cup championship. With Jean Beliveau also winning ten championships, only Henri Richard, with eleven, has won more.

On March 1, 1996, hockey fans were saddened to look on as the doors of the Montreal Forum were closed for the final time. In a moving ceremony signaling the end of the venerable shrine, a torch was passed from captain to captain, including hockey's 'Roadrunner.' "I had a chance to be there with the great players who played in the Montreal Forum. I think all the other teams who came to the Forum were beaten before they got there. They must have been happy when the Forum closed," Yvan smiles.

Kevin Shea is the Manager of Special Projects and Publishing at the Hockey Hall of Fame.