What a terrible year 2014 has been in term of the many greats the hockey world has lost. I have felt each and every passing in a personal way, and have also lost my best friend within the past year. It's rough emotionally. I am someone who is philosophical about the meaning of life and death, but each and every loss stings before I am able to smile at the personal memories and celebrate the legacies of each of these fine men.
Today is another tough day for hockey and for myself with the news of the passing of the legendary Jean Beliveau at age 83. He was my idol and arguably my favorite player when I was growing up. I may be a Bostonian and have grown up in and around the Boston Arena and Boston Garden, but even in my youth, I could not help but be drawn to the Canadiens' great Number 4.
On the ice, Beliveau was the epitome of skill and grace. He was the same off the ice, as one of the game's great gentlemen. In my dream of dreams, that is the player I would have loved to have been had I been blessed with much more natural skill. The policeman role I played came more naturally to me along with my work ethic, but how I would have loved to be able to fly up and down the ice making magic happen with the puck the way Beliveau did.
Beliveau played the game the way it was meant to be played: with a lot of competitive drive but also with respect for the game, for opponents and for the officials. As a matter of fact, to this very day, I use Beliveau as the gold standard for how a superstar player should conduct himself both on and off the ice. A semi-recent player who came close to that standard was Joe Sakic but there will only ever be one one Jean Beliveau.
I am not ashamed to admit that my childhood esteem for Beliveau has never left me. I was honored and thrilled to meet him for the first time in 1991. What a wonderful man. He even became a friend. In his passing, I am forever a fan of everything he was and represented.
Merci beaucoup, Jean Beliveau! We will always treasure you and what you brought to our fine game.
Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.
Today, Stewart is an officiating and league discipline consultant for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and serves as director of hockey officiating for the ECAC.
The longtime referee heads Officiating by Stewart, a consulting, training and evaluation service for officials. Stewart also maintains a busy schedule as a public speaker, fund raiser and master-of-ceremonies for a host of private, corporate and public events. As a non-hockey venture, he is the owner of Lest We Forget.
Stewart's writings can also be found on HockeyBuzz.com every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. He is currently working with a co-author in writing an autobiography.