It has been a difficult time for Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur, who has been dealing with various health issues over the past two years.

He had quadruple bypass heart surgery in September of 2019, followed by surgery a few months later to remove a lobe on one of his lungs, as well as to remove lymph nodes. In October of 2020, the Centre Hospitalier de l'Universite de Montreal (CHUM) announced that Lafleur experienced a recurrence of his lung cancer.

In the year that has followed, the 70-year-old native of Thurso, Que., has focused on his recovery and raising awareness for early detection with a new website, Be the MVP vs. Lung Cancer, launched in cooperation with Merck Canada.

TSN’s Montreal bureau reporter John Lu spoke with the Hockey Hall of Famer recently about his continuing recovery, his work on the ‘Be the MVP’ initiative and his thoughts on the Canadiens this season.

TSN: First of all, I’d just like to ask you, how are you feeling these days?

Lafleur: The last three or four days, I’ve felt a lot better. I get a treatment every week, so yesterday I got a treatment, and everything went well, and I would say the last three days I’ve felt better. It’s up and down - one week you sleep 20 hours a day then the following week you sleep eight hours, so it’s different.

TSN: How much longer do you anticipate these treatments will continue?

Lafleur: Well, I have to go to a PET scan on Monday, a biopsy on Monday morning and also an MRI. On Monday, we’re going to find out if it’s slowing down, going down. I’m anxious, I want to see how things go. It’s been a year and a half now (I’ve been) on treatment, so I want to see some results.

TSN: We wish you the absolute best for the results on that.  I’m just wondering - you have not only family and friends in your corner, but the entire hockey world on social media and I see all sorts of people, well-wishers, even Bruins fans, that are hoping for the best for you. How much of that has been a boost for you in your recovery?

Lafleur: It’s really helped me out – friends, hockey fans across Canada, families. It’s great support for me and it encouraged me to be positive and hopefully they’ll do something about finding a cure. Merck Canada is bringing awareness to people for one reason - the lung tumour is a tough tumour to diagnose because you don’t have much about it. They just put up a website,, where you can get some information and also how to find out if you have symptoms for lung cancer. So, I think it’s going to be very helpful for people to understand, and if they want to know if they have the symptoms, they can go to and see the symptoms. It gives them the opportunity to prevent any surgeries or anything about lung cancer if you consult your doctor.

TSN: How did you get involved with this campaign, ‘Be The MVP?’

Lafleur: Well, I was operated on for a quadruple bypass, and they found a spot on my right lung and after analyzing it, they said it was cancer. I was lucky, because they diagnosed it from (Stage) 1 and most of the people that consult and go to see the doctor, they have (Stage) 4. (Stage) 4 is not as good – I’m not saying you’re going to die from it, but you’re not putting your chances on your side. That’s why Merck Canada decided to have a program of awareness for people. (Lung cancer) is killing 20,000 people a year in Canada and it’s a lot of people.

TSN: Ultimately, what do you hope will come from this campaign and your involvement with it?

Lafleur: I just hope that people consult and try to find out as much as they can about their health. A lot of times, I always say that people are taking better care of their car than taking care of their bodies. You live once, you don’t live twice. Cancer is a sickness - you can’t buy it and get out of it, you have to live with it and sometimes it’s hurtful for the people who are suffering from it and also for the families if they have loss, eventually. It’s tough, you go through some tough times but it’s worth it to be positive. Hopefully they find something – they’re working hard at it – they need all kinds of money for research, and I think it’s important. When you don’t have it, you don’t realize how lucky you are. But when you have it, you look back and say, “I could help some people out,” and realize that lung cancer – any cancer – is not a joke and is very, very serious.

TSN: You can’t change the past and you’re taking steps obviously to recover. I know that living in the moment, taking it day by day, is so important in recovering from a disease like lung cancer. Do you allow yourself to think forward, as perhaps a goal in getting to and enjoying full recovery?

Lafleur: I’m hoping for it. It’s something that, (with) one week, you’re on top of the world, but the next week you’re in hell. It’s tough, but I’m positive. I was talking to guys before – I was following up with Dale Hawerchuk, when he was sick and Tom Kurvers – we were talking to each other about at least twice a month to get some news. Unfortunately, these guys, they battled hard, but they didn’t win the battle. But with the research program, we’re hoping that what they’re doing with us, we’re going to help a lot of people out there.

TSN: You say that you feel like you’re on top of the world. Have you been able to enjoy simple pleasures with family or friends?

Lafleur: I go out for lunch once in a while, not very often, at a restaurant. I don’t go to hockey games because there’s too many people and I get tired very quickly, so I watch it on TV and these days it’s not too much fun to be following the Canadiens. That’s part of the game, but I try to keep busy and there not much I can do more.

TSN: I was going to end with one hockey question, Guy – and since you brought it up, I’d just like to ask you because the Canadiens are so close to your heart…how do you believe they can get themselves out of the struggles that they’re going through right now?

Lafleur: I believe it, but they have to go back to the basics. They have to realize that you don’t go out there and work, you go out there and you’re supposed to have fun as a team. And it’s not a one-man show, it’s a team effort. If you don’t put in the effort as a team, you’re not going to win. For me, I said it a long time ago – this year, they should put a captain there and best guy would be Brendan Gallagher. He goes through the boards every time that he plays, he’s passionate about the game. They don’t have a captain right now, so who are the players looking up to? You need somebody in the room with the ‘C’ that’s going to stand up behind the bench and in the room and talk to the guys. And Gallagher is the right guy – he would do anything to win, and it shows. He pays the price every night that he’s on the ice and the players need somebody like that to look up to, to wake them up once in a while. These days that’s every second minute, so you need a guy like that. I don’t see any team without a captain on the ice and Montreal should have one.