The Montreal Canadiens- An essay

The following is an essay that I wrote for my Sports History class in March 2010. The point of this essay was to prove that the Canadiens are the best team in the NHL:

If the Montreal Canadiens do not win the Stanley Cup this season, and let’s face it chances are slim to none, it will mark the first decade of the club’s existence that it has not won Lord Stanley’s prized Cup. While the team’s performance has been pretty lack luster the last decade or so, fans continue to pour into the Bell Centre night after night to watch them play. During the 100 years of glory the Habs have existed, the longest of any professional hockey team, they have set records and broken others, while producing some of the greatest players of all time.  For all these reasons, they have been touted the most successful franchise in the history of the NHL.

            While many cities with teams in the NHL call themselves Hockey town, Montreal is the real Hockey town. It is where shinny came indoors and became hockey, the world’s first arena sport. It is where the first rules were written, where the first team was formed[1], and where the Stanley Cup has come to rest 24 times with the Canadiens[2] (Jenish). “The Canadiens will be 100 years old on December 4, 2009. The story of the team runs parallel to, and often intersects with, the history of Canada. They are one and the same” (Gainey).

            “When we win on Saturday night, you get on the subway Monday morning and three-quarters of the people are smiling,” says Pierre Boivin[3]. “If we lose a couple and Toronto’s ahead by a point, Montrealers are very unhappy. If we don’t make the playoffs, spring is hell. To some degree, the city’s productivity is influenced by the team’s performance. Hockey is part of what makes this city tick” (Jenish).

            The Canadiens have had five homes since their birth: The Jubilee Rink, The Westmount Arena, The Mount Royal Arena, The Forum (which was the most famous hockey stadium in the world by the time the Canadiens played their final game there on March 11, 1996), and the Bell Centre. The new home of the Habs is the biggest arena in North America, with a seating capacity of 21,273, which means a sold out game would have a bigger crowd than any other team in the NHL (Jenish).

            “Time has tested the fans. They have witnessed only two Stanley Cups in the past 30 years. Yet they remain faithful. Since the fall of 2005, they have filled every seat in the Bell Centre for every game and set league attendance records” (Jenish).

Not only have the Montreal Canadiens been successful at filling their stands, they’ve also successfully lasted 100 years while other teams have crumbled. “But the most remarkable thing about the Canadiens is that they have survived through war and peace, prosperity and recession, two world wars and a worldwide depression, cataclysms that caused competitors-the Montreal Wanderers, the original Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Maroons and the New York Americans-to buckle and fold” (Jenish).

“The Great Depression killed the city’s popular English-speaking team, the Maroons. Talk even arose of the Canadiens moving to Cleveland and of turning the ‘Fabulous Forum’, the team’s home, into a streetcar barn. But in 1942 the Canadiens found a hero who would lead the team to everlasting glory (Cole).”

            In 1909 the Montreal Canadiens, led by captain, coach, and general manager Jack Laviolette, joined the National Hockey Association. That first season, when there were just 12 games, the Canadiens managed only two wins to finish in last place (Montreal Canadiens ).

            Their first season was rocky, as expected with a new team, but 100 years later the franchise has much to boast about. The Holy Grail of hockey, the Stanley Cup, which was donated to the league in 1892 by former Governor General of Canada Lord Stanley of Preston has been won by the Canadiens a record 24 times. Not only is this an NHL record, it was actually a record amongst all North American professional sports until 1999 when the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball won their 25th World Series (Wikipedia).

            In 1960 the Habs completed a Stanley Cup five-peat, a feat that has never been beaten or matched in the NHL. The Canadiens came close to their own record, winning four straight, in 1975-1978 as did the New York Islanders (1979-1982) and the Ottawa Senators (1902-1905). In fact, the rarity of winning five consecutive championships extends to every other major sport in North America. In MLB the Yankees are the only team to win five straight World Series (1949-1953), in the Canadian Football League only the Edmonton Eskimos have captured the Grey Cup five consecutive times (1978-1982), and in the National Football League it has never been accomplished. Only the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association have a better record than the Habs, having won eight straight NBA titles.

             If winning the Stanley Cup 24 times isn’t enough, the team has won a combined total of 164 awards including 25 Prince of Wales Trophies, 28 Vezina Trophies, 17 Hart Memorial Trophies, and eight Art Ross Trophies

            The Montreal Canadiens have produced some big names during the last 100 years. One of the most prominent names in Canadiens’ history, and the history of the NHL for that matter, is Maurice Richard; The Rocket. He was the first player in league history to score 50 goals in 50 games[4], 50 goals in a season, and 500 career goals[5]. Those records have long been broken by many hockey greats, but Richard’s name will never be forgotten as a hockey legend.

According to the NHL “50 goals in 50 games” is when a player scores 50 goals in the team’s first 50 games of the season, not the player’s first 50 (Wikipedia). This feat has officially been accomplished only eight times by five different players[6]. Scoring 50 goals in a season doesn’t seem like much these days, 87 players have done so, but it took 16 years for the record to be broken[7] (Wikipedia). Scoring 500 career goals is also considered a highly significant achievement; only 41 players have been able to do so (Wikipedia).

            In the 1940s Richard was joined by fellow “Punch Line” mates Toe Blake and Elmer Lach who helped lead the Canadiens to the top of the league yet again with two more Stanley Cups. From 1952-1960, led by Jean Beliveau, “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, Jacques Plante, and Henri Richard, the franchise won six more Cups. The next generation of stars included Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden, and Bob Gainey who led the Habs to four straight cups. Scotty Bowman, who would later set a record for most NHL victories by a coach[8], was the team’s head coach for its last five Stanley Cup Victories in the ‘70s (Wikipedia). Guy Lafleur would go on to become the Canadiens all-time leading scorer with 1,246 points in 961 games (Montreal Canadiens).

            Henri Richard (The Pocket Rocket), Maurice Richard’s brother, has won the Stanley Cup a record 11 times. With 11 rings to his credit, he has won more championships than any other athlete in North American professional sport history. He played a franchise record 1,256 games in a Montreal jersey (Montreal Canadiens).

            The Habs have retired 17 numbers, the most in the league, over the years[9] (Montreal Canadiens) and have the second-most enshrined Hall-of-Famers with 42. Howie Morenz and Georges Vezina were the first Canadiens inducted (1945) and Patrick Roy and Dick Duff were the most recent (2006) (Wikipedia). This alone should signify the amount of great players the franchise has produced.

            There have been three trophies donated to the NHL to honour members of the Montreal Canadiens. The Vezina Trophy, awarded to the top goaltender, was presented to the league by the former owners of the Habs in memory of Georges Vezina, an outstanding goalie who collapsed during a game in 1925 and died a few months later from tuberculosis. The Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player judged most valuable to his team, was donated to the league in 1923 in memory of former manager-coach Cecil Hart. The Maurice Richard Trophy, given to the league’s top goal scorer, was unveiled in 1999 to honour the many firsts of Richard (NHL.COM).

            While the Montreal Canadiens have not been very successful since the late 1970s, they still have one of the richest histories in the NHL. As the longest standing team in the NHL they have won more Stanley Cups than any other team, have set many records which haven’t been broken or took years to break, have produced handfuls of hockey Gods and have kept the city of Montreal proud. Because of this they remain the most successful team in the history of the National Hockey League.

[1] The McGill University Redmen were formed in 1877

[2] 1915-1916, 1923-1924, 1929-1930, 1930-1931, 1943-1944, 1945-1946, 1952-1953, 1955-1956, 1956-1957, 1957-1958, 1958-1959, 1959-1960, 1964-1965, 1965-1966, 1967-1968, 1968-1969, 1970-1971, 1972-1973, 1975-1976, 1976-1977, 1977-1978, 1978-1979, 1985-1986, 1992-1993

[3] President and CEO of the Canadiens 1999-present

[4] 1944-45 season 50th goal came in 50th (and final) game of the season against Harvey Bennett of the Boston Bruins (Wikipedia)

[5] 1957-58 season (41st season of the NHL) he scored his 500th goal in his 863rd game against Glenn Hall (Wikipedia)

[6] Mike Bossy 1980-81 (Islanders), Wayne Gretzky 1981-82, 1983-84, 1984-85 (Oilers), Mario Lemieux 1988-89 (Penguins), Brett Hull 1990-91, 1991-92 (Blues) (Wikipedia)

[7] Bernie Geoffrion 1960-61 (Canadiens)

[8] 1,244 wins in the regular season and 223 in the post season. He has also won a record 9 Stanley Cups (5 with the Canadiens)

[9] Jacques Plante (1), Doug Harvey (2), Émile Bouchard (3), Jean Beliveau (4), Bernie Geoffrion (5), Howie Morenz (7), Maurice Richard (9), Guy Lafleur (10), Yvan Cournoyer (12), Dickie Moore (12), Henri Richard (16), Elmer Lach (16), Serge Savard (18), Larry Robinson (19), Bob Gainey (23), Ken Dryden (29), Patrick Roy (33)

Works Cited

Cole, Stephen. The Canadian Hockey Atlas. Doubleday Canada, 2006.

Gainey, Bob. “Introduction.” Jenish, D’Arcy. The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years of Glory. Doubleday Canada, 2008. ix-xi.

Jenish, D’arcy. The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years of Glory. Doubleday Canada, 2008.

Montreal Canadiens . 1909-1910 Season. 2008. 19 April 2010 <;.

Montreal Canadiens. Dashboard-Players: Historical Website of the Montreal Canadiens. 2008. 19 April 2010 <;.

—. Henri Richard:Historical Website of the Montreal Canadiens . 2008. 19 April 2010 <;.

—. Statistics: Historical Website of the Montreal Canadiens. 2008. 19 April 2010 <;.

NHL.COM. Trophies. 2008. 19 April 2009 <;.

Wikipedia. 50 goals in 50 games. 13 April 2010. 19 April 2010 <;.

—. List of NHL players with 500 goals. 14 April 2010. 19 April 2010 <;.

—. List of NHL Players with 50-goal seasons. 17 April 2010. 19 April 2010 <;.

—. Montreal Canadiens. 19 April 2010. 19 April 2010 <;.

—. New York Yankees. 15 April 2010. 19 April 2010 <;.


2 thoughts on “The Montreal Canadiens- An essay

  1. Comments from the blog of Shaan Yusef, fan of Le Canadiens…It’s hard to picture now, but during the Canadiens dark ages (1999-2003), attendance figures were often inflated to 17,000-18,000. On any given night, there were at least three to four thousand empty seat and fans would pay less than face value for a ticket. In fact, when the Molson’s put the team up for sale, not a single viable candidate emerged from Quebec. In the end the team, along with the Bell Center (then Molson Center) were sold for a measly $180 Million to George Gillet, an American business man with a spotty balance sheet. Under Gillet the Canadiens emerged from the red and 10 years later were sold back to the Molson’s for a cool $500 Million.” Cheers from Hockeytown USA!

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