Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur strives to raise awareness as he continues to battle lung cancer

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Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur arrives for the first hockey game played at the newly inaugurated Videotron Center on September 12, 2015 in Quebec City.Jacques Boisinot / The Canadian Press

Guy Lafleur isn’t sure what’s around the next corner.


When their cancer treatments aren’t quite as draining, Montreal Canadiens have great energy.

And then there are times when he just wants to relax.

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“I get immunotherapy the first three weeks, and then in the fourth week I have the big chemo,” Lafleur said of her diet in a recent interview with The Canadian Press. “It’s chemotherapy that hurts you really badly. There’s no week that’s the same. In the last two weeks, I felt really bad and I was sleeping a lot.

“But in the last three days I’ve been feeling a lot better – a lot of ups and downs.”

In September 2019, Lafleur was accidentally diagnosed with a cancerous white spot on his right lung while he was undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery. Two months later, the Hockey Hall of Fame winger went under the knife again to have his lungs and upper lobes of lymph nodes removed.

“I didn’t know,” Lafleur said of his cancer, thankfully it was caught early. “I’d probably have finished with Stage 4 and it might have been too late.”

But in October 2020, he received the bad news that the cancer had returned, when Lafleur began his current treatment.

“Not many people have a chance to catch it from the start,” said Lafleur, 70, who partnered with Merck Canada for its new “Be the MVP” campaign to raise awareness of early lung cancer. to find out.

The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 21,000 people in this country will die from lung cancer in 2021 – about 25 percent of all cancer deaths.

“Most people find out it’s stage 4,” said Lafleur, a chain smoker until he quit cold turkey in 2019 because of his health concerns. “It is not too late now because there are miracles out there, and there are people who survive.

“But it’s better to find yourself.”

Lafleur, who won five Stanley Cups as part of the Canadiens dynasty of the 1970s during an illustrious career, continues to watch his old team with a keen eye.

The man nicknamed “The Flower” doesn’t appear in many games – although Lafleur did get a thunderbolt during last season’s impossible race in the final at Bell Center – but is disappointed with a start that saw Montreal take just five in 20. Winning times have seen him finish 29th in the NHL standings.

“They went to the Stanley Cup and are now almost in last place,” said Lafleur, who recorded 560 goals and 1,353 points in 1,126 games with the Canadiens, New York Rangers and Quebec Nordics.

“If you’re not prepared and if you don’t have the right players, you’re not going to win.”

Montreal, of course, has been minus two big pieces in 2021-22. Canadiens captain Shea Webber is battling injuries that could force his retirement, while goaltender Kerry Price entered a residential treatment facility for “substance use” ahead of the season and continues to work his way back .

“That two big guys are missing,” Lafleur said. “But losing streak like this is not normal. Even if you’re missing two people you should be able to make up for it.”

Criticizing the team’s performance on the ice, Lafleur received much praise for Price and winger Jonathan Drouin, who left the team last spring to deal with insomnia and anxiety in order to address their mental-health needs – and then Sharing details publicly.

“They were hiding it for a while, their problems, but it came up and it’s going to help,” Lafleur said. “First of all, myself. Plus people will understand what they’re going through. That’s a good thing.

“They’re not the only two in the league, I’ll tell you that.”

Lafleur says he believes the Canadiens need to name a captain, with Webber on the shelf indefinitely. Gritty forward Brendan Gallagher is his pick.

“Now,” he said aloud. “Sorry for Shia, but he’s not playing. You need someone the players watch.

“And Brendan … he’s the guy who shows up for every game, he pays the price for every game.”

Meanwhile, declining interest in the sport among Quebec’s youth has prompted the provincial government to unveil a strategy aimed at increasing the number of Quebecers in the NHL.

Lafleur is not part of the committee announced last week, but he has some ideas.

He said, ‘Times change. “Minor hockey, it’s too expensive. For parents to bring their kids up to juniors [level], this is incredible. In our days, we didn’t have that.

“It wasn’t that much money because we didn’t travel much. Minor hockey, it’s organized like the NHL now.”

Lafleur also pointed a finger at some parents.

“They put so much pressure on the kids,” he said. “They think about winning the lottery if they make [the NHL],

“That’s why a lot of kids are leaving… There’s a lot of pressure. They have to perform all the time.”

However, the pressure to perform comes with the territory for a one-story franchise with 24 Cup banners.

“You have to go to war together,” Lafleur said of the present-day Canadiens. “Not one man one night, two guys the next night. It’s 20 people on the team, and you go out there and you do everything in your power to win.

“If you win then Montreal is the best city in the world to play in. If you don’t win, it’s hell.”

Lafleur has been on her own terms over the past 26 months with her surgeries, the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer return and treatments that can take a heavy toll.

But the support from family, friends and fans – the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League retired its number last month – is immeasurable.

“I have been stuck at home for most of 2019,” he said. “Mentally, it is tough. Hopefully I will overcome this and come out of it with a win.

“This is hope for everyone who has cancer.”


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