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"The Senator," Serge Savard, to have number retired by Habs on Saturday night

Canadian Press
Nov 16, 2006, 2:37 PM EST


(CP) - "The Senator" takes centre ice Saturday night when his No. 18 takes its rightful place among hockey legends.

Serge Savard will be the 11th player to have his number retired by the Montreal Canadiens, an honour that comes 20 years after his induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame. "It's going to be with pride that I accept that honour," Savard said Thursday. "I'm very humbled about it. It's not something that you win, it's something that they give you. I'm just really thrilled about it."

Savard won eight Stanley Cups in 15 seasons with Montreal from 1967-68 to 1980-81, taking the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1969. He had 439 points (106-333) in 1,040 regular-season games in a career extended by two seasons in Winnipeg.

Despite two horrific knee injuries suffered early in his career, he was a complete player and a great leader on the powerhouse Habs teams that dominated the 1970s.

"Serge was probably one of the most underrated players I ever had play for me on any of my teams," Scotty Bowman said Thursday.

Consider where that statement is coming from, hockey's all-time winningest coach who had superstars with him in Montreal, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Detroit.

"Serge played with Larry Robinson (on the '70s Habs) and I think that was probably the best tandem I ever saw in my history," said Bowman.

"I don't hardly ever remember Serge getting caught up the ice."

The 60-year-old Savard, a Montreal native, had more modest goals when he began his career with the Habs in 1967. His number going up to the rafters wasn't one of them.

"Your goal when you're a kid is to make the National Hockey League. Your second goal after is to win the Stanley Cup," said Savard. "To be recognized in the Hockey Hall of Fame (1986) is a great honour. Having your number retired? That's something that's never even in your dreams as an athlete."

As he ponders what Saturday will feel like, he's also thinking about who helped him get there.

"I'm thinking about all my teammates," said Savard. "Hockey is a team sport and there's so many players that I played with that will never be recognized."

Savard's goalie from those dynasty Montreal teams of the '70s will soon join him in the rafters. Ken Dryden's No. 29 will go up on Jan. 29 before a game against the Ottawa Senators.

Already retired are No. 1 for Jacques Plante, No. 2 for Doug Harvey, No. 4 for Jean Beliveau, No. 5 for Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, No. 7 for Howie Morenz, No. 9 for Maurice (Rocket) Richard, No. 10 for Guy Lafleur, No. 12 for Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer and No. 16 for Henri Richard.

Savard will have his number alongside players he grew up idolizing.

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