MONTREAL – A subjective look at 10 key moments in the Montreal Canadiens’ 100-year history:
1. Team is founded. A new team to represent French Canadiens was formed on Dec. 4, 1909 called Le Club de Hockey Canadien under the ownership of Ontario businessman Ambrose O’Brien. Jack Laviolette was hired as player/coach and Edouard (Newsy) Lalonde was its first star player. The Canadiens played their first game on Jan. 5, 1910, a 7-6 overtime win against the Colbalt Silver Kings.
2. Howie Morenz funeral: The Canadiens first superstar caught a skate in the boards and fractured his left leg in four places. Knowing his career was finished, a depressed Morenz suffered a heart attack in hospital and later was found dead in his room. Thousands of fans attended his funeral at the Montreal Forum on March 10, 1937. Long-time linemate Aurel Joliat said: “I think Howie died of a broken heart.”
3. Rocket’s 50-goal season: Maurice (Rocket) Richard, the greatest scoring star of his era, tied Joe Malone’s record of 44 goals in a season on Feb. 15, 1945. In the final game of the season, the Rocket got his 50th goal against Boston with 1:42 left to play in the team’s 50th game. He went on to score a then-record 544.
4. Richard riot: The Rocket was the darling of the Canadiens fans, so even though he hit Boston’s Hal Laycoe over the head with his stick and then punched lineman Cliff Thompson in a game late in the 1954-55 season, they were outraged when he was suspended for the rest of the season and the playoffs. Protesters turned out for a home game March 17, 1955, and league president Clarence Campbell was slapped by a fan. The building was cleared after a smoke bomb went off and fans then rioted in the streets until Richard issued a public appeal for calm.
5. Five straight Cups: The most dominant team in NHL history won the Stanley Cup from 1956 through 1960 with a glittering array of stars that included Richard, slick centre Jean Beliveau, scoring aces Dickie Moore and Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, the one-two punch on defence of Doug Harvey and Tom Johnson and the innovative Jacques Plante in goal.
6. Plante mask: Early in a game in New York on Nov. 1, 1959, Plante was struck on the face by a slap shot from Andy Bathgate, suffering a deep gash. He returned 20 minutes later wearing a mask he used in practices. Other goalies had worn masks before, but Plante became to first to use it full-time in the NHL and make it standard equipment, despite howls of disapproval from traditionalists, including his coach Toe Blake.
7. 1960s dynasty: Some say this team was as good as that of the 1950s, but Cup wins in 1965 and 1966 were interrupted in 1967 by a heroic performance by the aging Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canadiens then won two more to make it four Cups in five years, led by Beliveau, Henri Richard, checking winger Claude Provost, tough winger John Ferguson and Jacques Laperriere and Jean-Claude Tremblay on defence.
8. 1970s dynasty: Philadelphia’s Broad Street Bullies brawled their way to Cups in 1974 and 1975, but a superb Montreal team brought elegence back to hockey by winning four in a row from 1976 to 1979. Led by the gifted Guy Lafleur, that team featured the Big Three on defence – Serge Savard, Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe – the cerebral Ken Dryden in goal, and scoring stars like Steve Shutt, Jacques Lemaire and Yvan Cournoyer, as well as checking ace Bob Gainey.
9. The surprise Cup: No one expected a Stanley Cup from the 1985-86 Canadiens, but 20-year-old Patrick Roy made a statement about the type of money goalie he would be through his long career. A team led by captain Gainey, with centre Bobby Smith and winger Mats Naslund up front, and a clutch of youngsters who would go on to fame, including Stephane Richer, Claude Lemieux and Chris Chelios, brought the Cup back to the Forum. Roy was in goal again for the team’s 24th and last Cup in 1993.
10. Leaving the Forum: Their home since November, 1924, the Canadiens left the Forum and its rich history amid tears and a spectacular on-ice ceremony after a win over the Dallas Stars on March 11, 1996. A new, 21,273-seat building, the Molson Centre (now the Bell Centre), played host to its first game five days later. It helped make them one of the NHL’s richest clubs, but they have never threatened to win another Cup in the Bell Centre.