Jean Beliveau won on ice and in life

Jean Beliveau won 10 Stanley Cups in 20 seasons with the Canadiens. Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images

Jean Beliveau batted .500 in the most impressive hockey category of all: 10 Stanley Cups in 20 seasons.

But he batted a thousand where it mattered most.

"What a wonderful person," fellow Habs legend and former teammate Dickie Moore told ESPN.com a few years ago. "All these years, he's always thought about everyone else but himself. That's Jean Beliveau."

Beliveau died Tuesday night. He was 83.

No classier human being has ever laced them up in the 97-year history of the NHL. His talent was all-world, but it was his humble demeanor that will forever be remembered.

"He was, in every way, a one-of-a-kind player, matched only by his grace and quality as a human being," wrote the great Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette.

"He was la crème de la crème," Wayne Gretzky told ESPN.com in 2012.

All 20 of Beliveau's seasons as a player were spent with the Montreal Canadiens, from 1950 to 1971, the last 10 as captain.

Talk about a role model.

"He showed us the way to win, not just in hockey but in life," former Habs great Yvan Cournoyer told ESPN.com in French a few years ago.

Cournoyer broke into the NHL with the Canadiens in 1963-64. He often was Beliveau's roommate on the road in those days, a privilege he cherished.

"I learned a lot on the ice with Jean, but I learned a lot off the ice from him," said Cournoyer, himself a former Habs captain.

There was just something about the way Beliveau celebrated all those Cup wins, too. Like he didn't want to rub it in on the other team.

"I remember in Edmonton as a young team we had pictures of Jean Beliveau, that a couple of guys had cut out of magazines and hung in the locker room, of him lifting the Stanley Cup," Gretzky said. "That was a benchmark for us. He was the guy we remembered in terms of lifting the Stanley Cup with the team. He was a huge inspiration for our team."

As captain, Beliveau was as much big brother and father figure as teammate.

"He's that type of fellow. He cares about everyone else," said Moore, 83. "He's a great friend to have. He's always helping everyone else. He doesn't consider himself."

Moore and Beliveau first met as rivals in junior hockey. It was a strange way for a lifetime friendship to find its roots.

"I played four years junior against him," Moore said. "We had a hard time together. He didn't like me, and I guess I didn't like him at the time. But when we came with the Canadiens, we became friends, and friends forever. What a great fellow."

In many ways, Beliveau's graceful ways mirrored what the Canadiens represented for so many years. It was a franchise that every other team in the NHL tried to emulate. Things were done the Canadiens' way.

Even today, no team can pull off a pregame ceremony like the Habs. Where would that tradition be without Beliveau's influence?

"It wasn't just Jean Beliveau the player; he continued to work with the team after his playing career," Cournoyer said. "You can't find a better team ambassador than Jean Beliveau."

As a team executive, Beliveau won an additional seven Cups with the Habs.

Sometimes lost in the discussion of Beliveau as one of the game's key advocates was his incredible play. A massive junior star in Quebec, he lived up to the billing and then some as a pro, putting up 507 goals, 1,219 points in 1,125 NHL games en route to two Hart Trophies, a Conn Smythe Trophy, 14 NHL All-Star games and, of course, all those Stanley Cup rings.

"He was a great centerman," said Moore. "You knew you'd get that puck when you broke down the wing. He was a great passer. He had big strides.

He was so fluent on the ice. He never seemed to have to work; he had the same style every time. Jean did it with poise."

He was nicknamed "Le Gros Bill," for what was then quite an imposing frame.

"To be 6-3, 6-4 back then, he was a huge player," Cournoyer said. "He had incredible stickhandling. I remember a goal he once scored in Chicago. He deked out the goalie so amazingly that I remember getting up on the bench myself and applauding like a fan. It's the only time I had ever done that. But it was such a great goal."

And all the while, Beliveau did it with incredible class.

"He just carried himself with great dignity," Moore said. "It was about winning games. He was a team player. He played for everyone else.

"He just played hockey the way it should be played. He did it right."