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National funeral in Montreal for Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur

Former hockey stars, politicians, and hundreds of fans gathered in Montreal Tuesday for the national funeral for Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur.

The hockey great died April 22 of lung cancer and was laid to rest at the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in downtown Montreal.  

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, former Quebec Premier Jean Charest, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet and former Habs players like Serge Savard and Larry Robinson are among the special guests who are paying their respects.

"Today's a day to say thank you to Guy Lafleur for everything he gave us over so many years, all the wins, all the inspiration, the incredible games he played, but also his deep humanity. His contributions to the world around him were legendary and an inspiration to us all," the prime minister said before entering the church.

As the casket was carried into the church, fans lining the street chanted "Guy, Guy Guy" and applauded the hockey hero. 

At the ceremony's opening, Montreal Canadiens CEO Geoff Molson shared a tribute to the hockey star in the packed cathedral.

"When he walked into a room, jaws dropped. Cameras came out for selfies. And people immediately started searching for Sharpies, and a piece of paper for his autograph. And there was never a time when anyone in that room didn't get that selfie or that signature," Molson said.

"People realized that he was not only a superstar, Hall of Fame hockey player, but also a warm, humble and normal human being with an outstanding sense of humour."

Fans stand outside the funeral of hockey great Guy Lafleur at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal, Tuesday May 3, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Former Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy also paid his respects to Number 10, speaking of the first time he met Lafleur in the dressing room.

"When I went to the change room for my very first practice with the Canadiens I took the full measure of the hero that stood in front of me, the stature, his presence, charisma. Number 10 was dressed in five minutes and, intimidated, impressed, I was living in a surreal moment," Roy recalled.

"Before exiting, he hit my pads and said, 'Hey kid, welcome to the Canadiens.' Because that's Guy Lafleur. He's all heart, profound respect, and boundless generosity. This is the guy who takes the time because a few words make all the difference. It's his way of saying now we're in the same team, that I'll be there for you now even if they shoot on you non-stop in the next minutes."

The casket of Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur, who passed away last week, is carried into the church for funeral services Tuesday, May 3, 2022 at Mary Queen of the World cathedral in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

At the podium, Larry Robinson, who played 17 seasons with Habs, described Lafleur as an "irreplaceable" man who instilled a philosophy of playing every game as if it were the last one.

The Hall of Famer said Number 10 lived his life to his fullest both on and off the ice.

"We lost two very special people this past week to cancer. Mike Bossy and Guy Lafleur and heaven has them now. And it is my hope and my prayer that they're not looking for a big defenceman just yet," Robinson said.

Lafleur's son, Martin, also eulogized his father, whom he described as an "exceptional" man who was proud of his family and wanted nothing but the best for them.

"My father wasn't perfect, but he did everything he could to make us happy," Martin said. "Thank you for all the values you gave us."

Quebec singer Ginette Reno performed "L'Esssentiel" during the ceremony as fans watched on large television screens outside the church. 

Over the past two days, thousands of fans have visited the Bell Centre to pay tribute to the NHL Hall of Famer, as he was lying in state.

The ceremony, presided by Monsignor Christian Lépine, ended with Frank Sinatra's "My Way" playing as fans once again clapped their hands as the casket was escorted into the hearse. As people filed out of the cathedral, CF-18s roared overhead in a fly past to mark the end of the national funeral. 

Nicknamed "the Flower" and "Le Demon Blond" in French, Lafleur was a five-time Stanley Cup champion, having played for the Canadiens, New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques.

The Canadiens hockey club said in a statement the Lafleur family accepted a national funeral as a way to share its grief with the community out of respect for the public who have supported Lafleur over the years.

Lafleur is survived by his wife, Lise, his sons, Martin and Mark, his mother, Pierrette Lafleur, his granddaughter, Sienna-Rose, and his sisters, Lise, Gisèle, Suzanne and Lucie.

-- With files from The Canadian Press and CTV Montreal's Selena Ross Top Stories

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