MONTREAL -- Larry Robinson had Montreal Canadiens fans
squarely behind him for one more special night.
Robinson, a New Jersey assistant coach, had his No. 19 retired
by Montreal in a ceremony prior to the Canadiens' 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.
A six-time Stanley Cup champion in 17 seasons with the Canadiens
from 1972-89, the 6-foot-4 defenseman known as "Big Bird" won the
Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman twice, in 1976-77 and
Part of Montreal's renowned Big Three on defense along with
Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe, Robinson was a member of the
Canadiens' four straight Stanley Cup wins from 1976-79.
Robinson won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1977 after
recording a plus-120 during the 1976-77, the second-best
single-season plus-minus mark in league history.
The ceremony began with video tributes from Wayne Gretzky,
Robinson's teammate with Los Angeles from 1989-92, Ken Dryden,
current Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, and Dave Schultz, the
Philadelphia Flyers' main enforcer on the Broad Street Bullies
teams of the mid-70s.
Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello introduced
Robinson, who has added his name to the Stanley Cup three more
times with New Jersey as an assistant coach in 1995, head coach in
2000, and a special assignment coach in 2003.
"He was a special player on the ice and a special person off
the ice, where I continue to cherish the opportunity to work with
him," said Lamoriello, whose remarks were translated into French
on the video scoreboard.
Robinson finished his career with three seasons in Los Angeles
and a record 20 consecutive playoff appearances.
Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995, Robinson became the 13th
player to have his number retired by the team. Canadiens GM Bob
Gainey will have his No. 23 retired on Feb. 23.
"I am humbled to know my name will forever be in their
company," Robinson said.
The ceremony figured to be an emotional one with a strong family
presence supporting Robinson, despite the absence of both of his
parents and a brother, who have all passed away.
"I'm not going to be a Mark Messier," Robinson said after he
choked up momentarily when he began to address his children.
All three players shook hands with Robinson and embraced him
before they all posed for pictures with the No. 19 banner suspended
in the background.
Robinson shed a few tears as his wife, sisters and brother,
children and grandchildren, gathered around him while his banner
was hoisted to the rafters.
He then shook hands with each of the Canadiens players, who -- like Koivu, Kovalev and Higgins -- were all wearing "Robinson" No.
19 jerseys as they stood along the blue line.
Robinson also shook hands with all of the Senators players, who
had also lined up along the blue line after watching the entire
ceremony from the visitors' bench even though the ceremony began
one hour before the regular opening faceoff to avoid any delay to
The Devils were off Monday night.