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Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur dies at 70

April 22 (UPI) -- Montreal Canadiens icon Guy Lafleur, who helped guide the franchise to five Stanley Cup championships in the 1970s, has died, the team announced Friday. He was 70.

No cause of death was provided, but Lafleur revealed his most recent right lung cancer diagnosis in October 2020. He previously had a cancerous lobe removed from his left lung in 2019.

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"We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Guy Lafleur," Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said in a statement. "All members of the Canadiens organization are devastated by his passing.

"Guy Lafleur had an exceptional career and always remained simple, accessible, and close to the Habs and hockey fans in Quebec, Canada, and around the world. Throughout his career, he allowed us to experience great moments of collective pride. He was one of the greatest players in our organization while becoming an extraordinary ambassador for our sport."

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Lafleur, affectionately known as "The Flower" and "The Blond Demon," played 14 seasons for the Canadiens (1971-85) and won his first title with the team in 1973. He later guided the club to four straight championships from 1976-1979, and he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1977.

At the height of his career in the mid-to-late 1970s, the winger was considered one of the top players in the league. The three-time Art Ross Trophy winner became the first player in NHL history to record six consecutive seasons with 50-plus goals and 100-plus points (1974-80).

Lafleur also captured the Hart Trophy twice as the league's Most Valuable Player. He was a three-time winner of the Lester B. Pearson Award -- now known as the Ted Lindsay Award -- as the NHL Players Association's most outstanding player.

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"You didn't need to see Guy Lafleur's name and number on his sweater when 'The Flower' had the puck on his stick," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a news release.

"As distinctively stylish as he was remarkably talented, Lafleur cut a dashing and unmistakable figure whenever he blazed down the ice of the Montreal Forum, his long blond locks flowing in his wake as he prepared to rifle another puck past a helpless goaltender -- or set up a linemate for a goal."

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a noted Canadiens fan, said Lafleur was "unlike anyone else on the ice."

Lafleur was hampered by injuries in the 1980s and later had issues with the Canadiens' coaching staff and brass. He asked Montreal general manager Serge Savard for a trade in 1985, but he was denied. Lafleur ultimately opted to retire.

Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988, Lafleur decided to unretire and return to the NHL for the New York Rangers that same year. After just one season in New York, he moved on and spent two years with the Quebec Nordiques before finally hanging up his skates in 1991.

Lafleur was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019 when tumors were found by doctors who were performing emergency quadruple bypass heart surgery on him. Two months later, he underwent a procedure to remove the upper lobe of his lung and some lymph nodes.

Lafleur, who was a heavy smoker up until those health scares, had been partnering with Merck Canada as part of its "Be The MVP" campaign to raise awareness about early lung cancer detection.

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Over 1,126 NHL games, Lafleur notched 560 goals and 1,353 points. In 2017, he was named one of the 100 greatest NHL players of all time.

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