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(Reuters) - Jean Beliveau, a Hall of Fame ice hockey player who won 10 Stanley Cup championships with the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens, has died. He was 83.
"Like millions of hockey fans who followed the life and the career of Jean Beliveau, the Canadiens today mourn the passing of a man whose contribution to the development of our sport and our society was unmeasurable," Canadiens president Geoff Molson said in a statement early on Wednesday.
"Jean Beliveau was a great leader, a gentleman and arguably the greatest ambassador our game has ever known."
Beliveau spent his 20-year career with Montreal, including 10 as the team's captain, and was also part of the franchise's unprecedented run of five-straight Stanley Cup championships from 1956 to 1960.
When he retired after the 1970-71 season he was the team's all-time leader in nearly every offensive category. Beliveau is considered one of the greatest players in the team's rich history and remains second on its all-time scoring list.
The Canadiens retired Beliveau's jersey the season after he retired, ensuring no other Montreal player wears the number four.
He suffered from a number of health issues in recent years, including throat cancer, which he eventually recovered from, and a number of heart-related problems and strokes.
Beliveau, who was named the honorary captain for Canada's 2010 men's Olympic ice hockey team, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 after a career where he amassed 1,219 points in 1,125 games.
The Hockey Hall of Fame waived its usual three-year waiting period so it could induct Beliveau sooner.
Beliveau twice won the Hart Trophy, presented to the NHL's most valuable player, won the Art Ross Trophy once as the top scorer during the regular season and won the Conn Smythe Trophy once as the MVP of the playoffs.
In 2009, he received the NHL's Lifetime Achievement Award.
Beliveau is survived by his wife Elise, their daughter and two granddaughters.
"No record book can capture, no image can depict, no statue can convey the grandeur of the remarkable Jean Beliveau, whose elegance and skill on the ice earned the admiration of the hockey world while his humility and humanity away from the rink earned the love of fans everywhere," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement on Wednesday.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Keating