MONTREAL — Guy Lafleur, one of the great players in National Hockey League history, said Wednesday that he retired out of frustration last November after the Montreal Canadiens refused to trade him.
"I asked three times for a trade," Lafleur said in an interview with United Press International. "I thought that in another city, I could start a new life and career."
Canadien General Manager Serge Savard refused to trade him, Lafleur said.
"Serge said he wouldn't trade me for any considerations. Wayne Gretzky told me that Sather (Edmonton Oilers President and General Manager Glenn Sather) tried to get me, but the Canadiens wouldn't trade.
"Hockey is a religion here. We're all priests. It's sacred. You don't trade priests."
Lafleur, who had scored only twice in 19 games this season, said he decided to retire last Nov. 26, because he had lost his confidence and felt he couldn't fit into Coach Jacques Lemaire's defensive system.
"There is no big offensive trio on the team," Lafleur said. "With the style of play they have here, they don't need a big scorer."
Lafleur said Lemaire refused his request that they try to put together a big-scoring line with himself on right wing, Guy Carbonneau at center and Mats Naslund on left wing.
"He (Lemaire) refused. He said he needed Carbonneau for defensive purposes."
Lafleur, who was benched frequently by Lemaire, said he was "frustrated" and decided to retire when Savard refused to trade him.
"I didn't want to continue like this. Enough is enough."
Lafleur, 33, said he could become a 50-goal scorer again if he were traded to a free-wheeling team like the Oilers.
"It was a lack of confidence here," he said. "I wasn't shooting enough. I can still skate very well."
Since his retirement, Lafleur has moved into the Canadiens' public relations department. At a salary of about $500,000 a year, he ranks as one of the world's highest-paid banquet speakers.
Lafleur said he has no regrets about retiring but would be "pleased" if another team approached the Canadiens about a trade because "it would show I'm not finished."
Now that he has already retired, Lafleur said he's not sure whether he would leave Montreal to attempt a comeback elsewhere.
"I would listen," he said. "But I'm happy today. I miss the competition, but I had my good years. I don't regret anything."
Savard said in an interview that Lafleur never told him he wanted to play elsewhere and that no general manager ever phoned him about a possible trade.
Savard said he is willing to trade Lafleur "if that's what he wants."