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An emotional Serge Savard thanked a great number of people for helping him become a Hall of Fame defenceman just before his No. 18 was lifted up to the rafters of the Bell Centre on Saturday, making him only the second blue-liner in team history to have his number retired.

But "The Senator" saved the most important group for last.

"When you forget that hockey is a team sport, you cannot achieve anything," Savard told the sellout crowd of 21,273 fans. "Thank you to all my former teammates who made all of this possible."

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Savard was the defensive centre piece for the Canadiens dynasty of the 1970's as part of the "Big Three" with Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson, and his former coach Scotty Bowman noted that he couldn't "ever remember Serge getting caught and leaving his defence partner in disarray.

"Serge Savard was everybody's dream as a hockey player," Bowman said. "You were a special player, and a special player in my heart."

Canadiens captain Saku Koivu and assistant captain Craig Rivet - who were both originally drafted by Savard during his days as Habs GM - were joined by Sheldon Souray alongside The Senator as his No. 18 was slowly raised to the rafters and the crowd stood in applause.

Savard became the 11th player in Canadiens history to have his number retired, but he is only the second defenceman to join Doug Harvey atop the Bell Centre rafters.

Savard won eight Stanley Cups in 15 seasons with Montreal from 1967-68 to 1980-81, becoming the first defenceman ever to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1969.

He recovered from breaking his left leg two years in a row - first in March of 1970 and again in January of 1971 - in time to make a major impact for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union.

Savard was the only player on the Canadian team who didn't lose a game in that series, taking part in four wins - including the final three in Moscow - and one tie.

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Savard had 439 points (106-333) in 1,040 regular-season games, playing his final two seasons in Winnipeg after his old friend and then-Jets GM John Ferguson Sr. claimed him off waivers before the 1981-82 season.

Savard became the Canadiens' 12th general manager in 1983 and built Stanley Cup winners in 1986 and 1993 before being dismissed somewhat bitterly in 1995 by then-team president Ronald Corey.

Savard's No. 18 will hang alongside the No. 1 for Jacques Plante (retired on Oct. 7, 1995), No. 2 for Harvey (Oct. 26, 1986), No. 4 for Jean Beliveau (Oct. 9, 1971), No. 5 for Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion (March 11, 2006), No. 7 for Howie Morenz (Nov. 2, 1937), No. 9 for Maurice (Rocket) Richard (Oct. 6, 1960), No. 10 for Guy Lafleur (Feb. 16, 1985), No. 12 for Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer (Nov. 12, 2005) and No. 16 for Henri Richard (Dec. 10, 1975).

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