Guy Lafleur: From pucks to pitchman

The late Montreal Canadiens legend Guy “The Flower” Lafleur was one of Canada’s all-time hockey greats, a five-time Stanley Cup champion who currently ranks 29th overall on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 560 goals and 1,353 points.

But Lafleur, who died at age 70 last week, was also an in-demand advertising pitchman—a role he held from the height of fame in the 1970s and early ’80s, right through until his later years.

His acting might have been as wooden as the sticks NHL players used during his 1970s prime, but his good looks and flowing locks—not to mention his skill in our beloved national sport—ensured a steady parade of suitors all looking to use one of hockey’s biggest names to help move product.

While he lent his name and image to hockey equipment brands like Sherwood and Bauer, Lafleur was also an in-demand pitchman for consumer brands as diverse as Zeller’s, Yoplait, Chevrolet and Molson (see a sample of his work below).

Even as he got older, companies still continued to seek him out. In 2001, Pfizer Canada enlisted the then 50-year old Lafleur to promote its erectile dysfunction brand Viagra. At the time, Lafleur told The Globe and Mail  that he had endured some gentle ribbing from friends and colleagues, but acknowledged he had been paid a “very interesting” sum by the drug company to appear in its advertising.

The resulting ads featured Lafleur in a locker room setting talking candidly about ED, and were later spoofed by CBC’s Royal Canadian Air Farce. Lafleur would continue to appear in ads for products that spoke to his generation, including one spot for the hair-loss clinic Hairfax.

Lafleur also put his own name to products, including a line of sports drinks introduced in the 1980s called Flower Power. According to Lafleur’s obituary in Le Journal de Montréal, the drink sold 50,000 cases in Quebec and the Maritimes in the three months after its launch.

“At the height of his career…Guy Lafleur was the go-to brand endorser of choice for automotive, food and beverage, and sporting goods,” said Headspace Marketing’s Eric Blais. “Then came erectile dysfunction medication, hair loss treatments, circulation boosters, and eventually Playground Poker Club.

“While some of these decisions may have seemed questionable for someone of Lafleur’s stature, what shouldn’t be forgotten is his support of so many causes that benefited from his celebrity status.”

Lafleur’s death came just one week after another NHL luminary, Mike Bossy, died. The New York Islanders star was a similarly prolific pitchman, appearing in advertising for brands including KFC, Humpty-Dumpty, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Budweiser.


Chris Powell