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Former hockey great 'Butch' Bouchard dies

MONTREAL -- Emile "Butch" Bouchard, a longtime Montreal Canadiens captain and four-time Stanley Cup winner, died yesterday. He was 92.

Bouchard scored 49 goals in 785 games during his 15-year NHL career. The defenseman captained the Canadiens for eight years before retiring after the 1955-56 season.

The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup four times while he was with the team, twice while he was captain. Bouchard was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.

"He was one of the great captains in the history of the Canadiens," said Rejean Houle, the team's alumni president. "It was a period where the team really became a dynasty."

Son Pierre Bouchard, a member of the Canadiens himself from 1970-78, said his father remained active until the end of his life. "He was getting old, but he was in good shape," he said.

Born in Montreal, Emile Bouchard wasn't planning on a career in hockey after originally wanting to work in banking or as a beekeeper. He played many sports growing up, including baseball and boxing; it was only around age 16 that he began to take hockey seriously.

After borrowing $35 from his brother to buy equipment, Bouchard began playing for the Verdun Maple Leafs of Quebec's old Provincial Senior League.

The rugged 6-foot-2, 205-pound Bouchard quickly got noticed and the Canadiens offered him his first professional contract to play with their minor league club in Providence. He played the next 15 seasons with the Canadiens, establishing a reputation as one of the best hitters of the era.

"He was one of the leaders in the 1940s for a team that wasn't going anywhere, and then later, things went very well, with the arrival of Maurice [Richard] and all the others after that," Pierre Bouchard said.

"Those were great years for the Canadiens' organization."

Despite his success, Bouchard had to wait 43 years to have his No. 3 jersey retired, in 2009.

"It gave him a great boost in the last seven, eight years of his life," Pierre Bouchard said. "It allowed him to be better known to the younger generation."

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