In front of the Bell Centre, thousands of people wait quietly in line. Is it the warmth of spring that has been so long overdue? Is it the relative calm of the heart of the city on a Sunday morning? One thing is certain, there emanates from the silent crowd a tender sadness, tinged with a very delicate joy; perhaps that of being reunited one last time for Guy Lafleur, but especially by Guy Lafleur.

A man, wearing a Canadiens jersey and cap, head bowed.

They came by the thousands to pay their last respects to Guy Lafleur.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

The family of Jamie Duckett, 66, decided to leave Quebec during the Quiet Revolution and the rise of Quebec nationalism. My mother was a unilingual English speaker, my parents decided to go live in Ontario, but I have always kept my attachment to this city and to the Montreal Canadiens.he said, his hand on his heart. Guy Lafleur was as much the idol of young Anglophones as of young Francophones; a meeting point between the two solitudesrecalls Mr. Duckett, who adds, in English: Cole Caufield is good, but it’s not the same.

In the crowd, a few steps away, Jean-François Fleury, 46, a nurse, bought coffees at the local McDo. He gave them to those who follow him in the queue. However, he does not know them, but he had this desire to make a small gesture of generosity; a little caffeine on this Sunday morning of a large, quiet meeting. It is a duty of memory, to be here. It is a moment in the history of Quebec. There won’t be any more, people like that whose death will affect everyone. Maybe when Ginette Reno dies? Celine Dion?

Marc-André Gagnon, 71, slowly drinks the coffee offered by his next-in-line neighbor. Guy Lafleur commands respect. And respect, he lacks that today. There’s so much superficiality, people who don’t respect themselvessays the man from Mirabel philosophically.

Behind them, Nadine Pelletier tells us that this serene gathering makes her forget the war, the pandemic and the harshness of the past two years, but above all that she is here because her father was very fond of Guy Lafleur. A collective mourning is populated by very personal nostalgia. Beautiful moments in front of the TV with a father, a brother, a husband who is no longer… Many women who were waiting in line told us about that. Guy, Guy, Guyit’s a little piece of their life with someone they loved.

A man wearing the Nordiques jersey.

At times, the crowd chanted “Guy, Guy, Guy!” as a tribute to the legendary hockey player.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

For Twagili Mana, 53, born in Rwanda, Guy Lafleur is the memory of his arrival in Quebec in 1989; his discovery of this strange game on ice. I didn’t know hockeyhe remembers, mimicking a slap shot and proudly wearing a Nordiques jersey, which he says he hopes will come back to life.

Saying goodbye to Guy Lafleur is also, for many admirers, saying goodbye to the incarnation of their own bygone youth. Most of the people in line aren’t quite young anymore. A 91-year-old man traveled from Tracadie, New Brunswick; this other 86-year-old came down from Bas-du-Fleuve. By talking with people, we realize that a surprising number of them have a photo with Guy Lafleur, met at the restaurant, in the street, at an event.

A man wearing a cap with the Stanley Cup marked with the number five.

Guy Lafleur won five Stanley Cups during his career as a hockey player.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

To use the words of former Quebec Premier René Lévesque, if Quebec is something like a great peopleGuy Lafleur would not be a great man whose stature takes him away from ordinary mortals, but something like a big man, insofar as everyone, on this esplanade, in this crowd, speaks of him as a humble and accessible hero. They loved his faults, his weaknesses; they followed him in his humiliations.

I started to like Guy Lafleur when the Canadiens forced him out of the teamspontaneously confesses a man in his fifties who has been waiting for several hours to greet his idol one last time. In Quebec, we don’t like that, the peteux de broue… Our heroes are close to people, and Guy, he was the last of our heroeshe said with a resigned smile, before advancing with the line which began to enter the Ardent Chapel.

On the Bell Center ice rink plunged into darkness, Guy Lafleur’s mother is standing and shaking hands with visitors next to her son’s coffin. When we were there, the rest of the family is seated, moved, and warmly thanks each person who has come to say goodbye to the giant, to the hero who is nonetheless a man who loved a woman and who had children, parents.

A collective mourning is no less an intimate mourning.

Two admirers gather in front of the Montreal Canadiens memorial.

A state funeral will be held Tuesday, May 3, beginning at 11 a.m. at Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

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