Serge Aubrey "The Senator" Savard, OC, CQ - Born January 22, 1946 in Landrienne, Quebec is a Canadian retired ice Hockey defenceman, general manager and current Senior Vice President, Hockey Operations with the Montreal Canadiens.
Savard moved to Montreal when he was eleven years old, playing his minor Hockey in the local leagues, then at age 16 joined the Montreal Junior Canadiens for the 1963-64 season. During his three seasons with the Junior Canadiens, Savard became a leader both on and off the ice, captaining the team in 1965-66.
Savard was about to start school with the St. Boniface College in Winnipeg, Manitoba when the Montreal Canadiens signed him to a pro contract, and sent him to the Central Professional Hockey League / CPHL, Houston Apollos for the 1966-67 season. There, Savard was selected for the CPHL's Second All-Star Team and was named the league's rookie of the year.
Savard joined the Canadiens full-time in the 1967-68 season, but saw limited action on a very strong Montreal team for the first half season, then earned more playing time in the second half. Savard only played in 6 games during the playoffs, scoring 2 goals, as the Montreal Canadiens won the 1968 Stanley Cup championship.
In his second NHL season, Savard was becoming the dominant team player. For a second straight season, Montreal not only finished first in the East, but proceeded to capture the 1969 Stanley Cup championship. Savard was outstanding, blocking shots, clearing the zone and collecting ten points in fourteen games. His four goals was one shy of an NHL record for playoff goals by a defenseman in one season and helped earn Savard the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable playoff performer as his Canadiens swept the St. Louis Blues in four games. Savard became the first defencemen to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs' most valuable player.
Savard almost didn't make it much further in NHL play, however. In a game during the 1970-71 season against the Rangers, he skated after New York's Rod Gilbert, trying to stop a breakaway. Savard dove for the puck and crashed into a goal post and broke his leg in five places. Savard had three operations that took him out of the game for three months.
After a complete recovery, Savard continued to have problems with the leg and further injuries. In February, 1971, he suffered a new fracture to the same leg after being hit by a Bob Baun hipcheck in a game against Toronto, the break put Serge out of action for close to a year.
The break did more than put Savard out of action; it changed his style of play. "When I was younger, I was more of a rusher but after the two bad leg injuries, I didn't have the same speed so I became more of a defensive defenseman," states Serge. Although never afraid to carry the puck, Savard was found to be invaluable in his own end. "Not many guys are hurt stopping shots," Serge explains, describing his skill as a shot blocker. "You could get killed if you get hit in the temple but the average is good. I turn sideways from twenty to twenty-five feet away and let the goalie take it. He can see it better. To me, there's no danger if you time it right. You have to be almost on top of the shooter before falling."
Savard was selected to play for Canada in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union. Team Canada was 4-0-1 when Savard was in the starting lineup. He did not play in the opening loss at the Forum in Montreal but was in the starting lineup for games 2 and 3 in Toronto and Winnipeg (a win and tie, respectively). Prior to the fourth game, a game played in Vancouver, a Red Berenson shot in practice caught Savard on the ankle and he sustained a hairline fracture. It was expected that Savard was done for the series which forced him to sit out Canada's losses in games 4 and 5. He returned to the lineup for games 6, 7, and 8, all wins for Canada.
The injuries failed to stop Savard. Upon his return to the game, he started to blend his patient, hard-working style with the hard-charging, rushing play of Lapointe and Robinson. They became known as "The Big Three". (The trio played eight full seasons together and have a combined 20 Stanley Cups)
With the skillful scoring of Guy Lafleur and the outstanding play in the net of Ken Dryden. The result was another Stanley Cup championship for the Canadiens in 1976, when they swept the defending champion Philadelphia Flyers in four straight games, a victory that many relieved fans hailed as a triumph of skilled play over the fight-filled game of the Broad Street Bullies.
Savard played on eight Stanley Cup championship teams during his 14 seasons in a Canadiens jersey - 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973, including four consecutive between 1976 and 1979. In 1979, he won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance and dedication to the game. Savard also Played in the 1979 Challenge Cup (Soviet Union vs. NHL All-Stars).
Savard was named Montreal's team captain from 1979 to 1981, and also served as interim captain when Yvan Cournoyer missed the whole 1977 playoffs due to a back injury.
On August 12, 1981, Savard decided that he had had enough. The team had been struggling and Savard, who had proven to be a savvy businessman through his years with Montreal, decided to pursue those interests outside of Hockey. That afternoon, Savard stated, "This is the most difficult decision of my life. As a player, you know this day is coming but you never want to believe it." Toe Blake, the former coach of the Canadiens, added, "It's been said that anyone can be replaced, but that's not the case here."
Savard's old teammate, John Ferguson, plucked the star defenseman in the waiver draft that summer and attempted to convince Serge that he should reconsider his retirement and become a Jet in Winnipeg. Ferguson and Savard were partners in several thoroughbred racehorses, and the sales pitch was solid. "I didn't really want to come back," Savard explains. "I was receiving calls from John. I saw that the Jets weren't the same as the year before or else I wouldn't have come back, but the club was going for first place. I hadn't enjoyed the game the previous few years. Things were on a sour note with the Canadiens. There were a lot of young defensemen waiting in line. I made the right decision. But I felt wanted by Winnipeg and the atmosphere was very different."
"If Montreal had not forgotten to file my retirement papers, there's no way I'd have played in Winnipeg. But I was very happy to be playing. If my family had been against the move, I would never have considered it. Their attitude surprised me. I think my family missed my involvement in Hockey," says Savard.
Savard spent two seasons with the Jets, guiding the team to the division semifinals both seasons. Then, with much fanfare, the Montreal Canadiens hired Savard as Managing Director on April 28, 1983. "It was a fantastic feeling to be back with the Montreal organization where I had so many friends and memories," remembers Savard. Montreal sent a third-round draft choice and $50,000 to Winnipeg to get Savard released from the final year of his contract with the Jets.
Savard had played 1,040 regular season NHL games, scoring 106 goals, 333 assists and scored 19 goals, 49 assists In 130 NHL playoff games.
The "Savardian Spin-o-rama", which is a quick pivoting turn with the puck done in order to evade opponents, was coined by sportscaster Danny Gallivan and named after Serge Savard, and not Denis Savard (who was adept at the same manoeuvre) as is often thought.
Savard was later promoted to general manager of the Canadiens, also serving as Manager of their minor league team Sherbrooke Canadiens. Savard won the Calder Cup with Sherbrooke in 1985.
In 1986 and 1993, Savard was the general manager of the Stanley Cup Champion Montreal Canadiens, the Canadiens also went to the finals in 1989.
Five games into the 1995-96 season, the club replaced Jacques Demers as coach with Mario Tremblay and fired Serge Savard, replacing him with Rejean Houle. Hurt, Savard comments, "My personal feeling was that it was unfair because I was convinced I could find a way to turn things around. I'd done it before, but I understand that the team wanted to make a change."
Savard turned his attention away from Hockey and continued developing his business ventures. He built a new career as a real estate developer, hotel owner and investor, and garnered considerable power in both the business and political arenas. "I guess I'm like everybody else," Savard admits. "You've got to have something in life that you're proud of. You have to achieve something." He is a partner in a firm of real-estate developers, "Thibault, Messier, Savard & Associates", based in Montreal.
Serge Savard was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986.
Savard was ranked No. 81 on The Hockey News’ list of 100 greatest players in 1998.
In 1994, Serge Savard was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Serge Savard was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec in 2004.
On November 18, 2006, the Montreal Canadiens retired his jersey number 18 in a special ceremony at Bell Centre.
In 2017, Serge Savard was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.