The Montreal Canadiens are the NHL's most historic and long lasting franchise. Nicknamed "The Habs", the Canadiens were founded in 1909 and are one of the "Original Six" teams. The Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup 24 times, but haven't won since 1993. Many people have considered the Montreal Canadiens to be the greatest sports franchise of all time.
Despite all their successes, the Canadiens have had their fair share of rough patches. They've nearly folded three times, had star players ask to be traded, even historic season collapses. These are only some of the things lost under all the success and glory of the Montreal franchise.
There is lots to know about a team that's lasted for over 100 years. There are many stories about the Montreal Canadiens and quite a few that the league probably won't want you to know about. The NHL was a lot different back in the day and there are probably many things people don't know about the Canadiens, depending on what age you are. That being said, here are 15 things the NHL doesn't want you to know about the Montreal Canadiens.
15 All Of Their Cups Came Before The NHL Had 30 Teams
Everyone knows that the Canadiens are the most historic and successful NHL franchise to this day. Their 24 Stanley Cups are by far the most, but if you take a look at when they won them, there weren't as many teams as there are in the league today and not nearly as much competition.
The Habs have 14 Cups when the NHL only consisted of the Original Six teams. Eight of their ten Cups since the 1967 expansion came in the 12 years (1968-1979) after the NHL made the biggest expansion in professional sports history. During that time the NHL was slowly in the process of increasing the amount of teams in the league, but it was not nearly as competitive as it was today.
This isn't to take away anything from the Canadiens' remarkable success in the past because they certainly deserve it and put some of the best teams ever on the ice. We simply cannot avoid the fact that the league was a lot different back when the Habs were successful. Nonetheless, the growth of the NHL has seen different teams other than the Montreal Canadiens emerge as the league's top contenders in the last 20+ years.
14 The Curse Of The Bell Centre?
Since moving from the historic Montreal Forum to the Bell Centre in 1996, the Canadiens haven't won a single Stanley Cup, nor reached the Stanley Cup Finals. While there have been several jerseys raised to the rafters at the Bell Centre, the most important banner is yet to be raised in the arena that occupies over 21,000 seats.
With one of the largest capacities in the NHL, the Bell Centre hasn't been the home of the historic moments like the Canadiens once had at the Forum, where they won 22 of their 24 Cups. Some people claim that the team should have never left the arena where they had so much success, and that the Bell Centre has now become a curse to the NHL's most storied franchise. Who knows when we will see the Bleu Blanc Rouge raise the Cup at the Bell Centre for the first time.
13 The Vintage Barber Pole Jerseys
In honour of their 100th season in 2008-09, the Canadiens organization brought back some of their old jerseys in which they wore at different times in the season. One of those jerseys was their 1912-13 barber pole jersey, which consisted of blue, white and red stripes.
These jerseys are by far the ugliest in the franchise's history. They simply aren't pleasing to the eye and have been considered as one of the ugliest NHL jerseys ever. They look more like chain gang or "Where's Waldo?" themed jerseys instead. Luckily for the Canadiens franchise and their fans, they only wore these jerseys once and spared their fans from the embarrassment of showing up in these things once more.
12 The Richard Riot
During a heated match up between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins on March 13th, 1955, Habs star forward Maurice Richard got himself into a violent altercation that he would quickly regret. At a point in the game, Richard was high sticked by Bruins defenseman Hal Laycoe, who got a match penalty for the infraction, but quickly saw Richard retaliate by attacking the Bruins defender with his stick. As the play had been whistled down, linesman Cliff Thompson immediately jumped in to break up the play but in doing so received a punch via the Canadiens star forward.
It was later announced by league president Clarence Campbell that Richard would be suspended for the rest of the season and the playoffs, which caused immediate havoc in the city of Montreal. Fans protested the length of the suspension immediately, feeling that it was too severe and even accused the league of suspending Richard severely because of his French Canadian ethnicity.
To make matters worse, league president Clarence Campbell had the guts to show up to the Montreal Forum on March 17th, the first game after Richard had been suspended. This provoked yet another riot in the streets of Montreal, which costed the city $100,000 in damage, because of Mr.Campbell making an appearance. You can say that Habs fans have a special way of dealing with things.
11 They Existed Before The NHL
You may have not known it, but the Canadiens have played a part in bringing the NHL to life. Formally known as "Le Club de Hockey Canadien," The Montreal Canadiens were founded on December 4, 1909 by J. Ambrose O'Brien. The team was initially part of the National Hockey Association (NHA), in which they were a founding member of, before helping found the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1917 along with the other four teams of the NHA. The Habs even won their first Stanley Cup before the NHL was born, which came in 1916. They are the oldest franchise in the entire NHL and the only team to exist before the league's existence.
10 Their Unbreakable Record Of Five Straight Cups
The Montreal Canadiens hold the record for the most consecutive Stanley Cups won by an NHL team with five, between the years 1956-60. At the time, the Habs were coached by Toe Blake and had a team full of legendary players such as Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Bernard Geoffrion and Jacques Plante.
The 1956-60 Montreal Canadiens dynasty is one of the greatest dynasties in NHL history, and their five straight cups are yet to be surpassed. The New York Islanders have come close, winning four straight from 1980-83, which came shortly after the Canadiens won four straight themselves between 1976-79. Besides those two times, no team in the NHL has ever come close and no team can probably top the Canadiens' record, at least not for a very long time.
The amount of parity in the NHL these days is far too much that anyone can win it all once they make the playoffs. The implication of the modern day salary cap has also made it difficult for good teams to stay together for a long time. These are two of the biggest reasons why no NHL team has won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in nearly 20 years and why it's practically impossible for anyone to break the Canadiens' record right now.
9 They Never Had An Unfair Advantage
Many people have criticized the Habs historic success because of the "unfair advantage" they had in gaining early rights to French Canadian players after having their worst season ever in 1935-36. However, the truth is that this did not benefit the Canadiens one bit and that claim has been considered a myth for many years.
Instead, they benefited from hiring Frank Selke as their manager. Selke upgraded the Forum to hold more seats, which meant more fans coming to games, which meant more money to be made. With that money, Selke sponsored minor and junior hockey teams across North America and in return the Canadiens had the rights to any players who had enough talent to make the NHL.
That still didn't even fully benefit the Habs as they missed out on several talented French Canadian players such as Marcel Pronovost and Jean Ratelle. So the next time someone tries to claim that the Habs were given an unfair advantage that helped them win their Stanley Cups, set them straight with the facts.
8 How They Got Guy Lafleur
The 1970-71 Canadiens were managed by Sam Pollock, who had a devious plan to try and get the first overall pick in order to draft Guy Lafleur. Many felt that he "took advantage" of a less experienced owner in Charles Finley of the California Golden Seals (who were in last place), to persuade him to make a trade with the Canadiens in which the Habs would acquire the Golden Seals' first round pick.
The trade consisted of the Golden Seals' first round pick and Francois Lacombe for Montreal's first round pick and Ernie Hicke. When the Canadiens got the pick, the Los Angeles Kings started to come close to the Golden Seals in last place and the Habs were in danger of losing their first overall pick. Seeing this, Pollock offered the Kings a "boost" so that they could start to win some games and stay out of last place. He did so by trading Ralph Backstrom in exchange for Gord Labossiere and Ray Fortin.
Not only did the Habs win the Stanley Cup that year, but they ended up with the first overall pick as well in which they used to select Guy Lafleur and the rest is history.
7 The Almost Forgotten Stanley Cup
After winning their second Stanley Cup in 1924, the Canadiens decided to celebrate their championship at owner Leo Dandurand's house. The plan was to head over to the owners house for drinks, so the team crammed as many guys as they could in to a car along with the Cup and were on their way.
Shortly after, the car stalled on a hill and the players had to get out to push their way over. The problem is, when they got out of the car, they left the Cup on the side of the road. Luckily, at some point, someone realized that they were missing something and they immediately drove back to pick up the Stanley Cup from where they had left it. The most surprising thing out of all this is that the Cup remained in the same spot from where they had left it, completely untouched.
6 They Are Currently In Their Longest Stanley Cup Drought
The Montreal Canadiens didn't have many Stanley Cup droughts before the 21st century. Between 1950-1980, the Habs won a total of 16 Stanley Cups, which is roughly one Stanley Cup every two years. Things are no longer the same for the Bleu Blanc Rouge who were once ever so dominant. The Habs are stuck on their 24th Stanley Cup and are currently experiencing their longest Stanley Cup drought in their history which is approaching the 24-year mark.
Several things can factor in as to why the Canadiens no longer have the success that they used to. Different management, not as good drafting, and other teams are simply getting better are just some of the reasons. Whatever it may be, the fans in Montreal are impatiently waiting for their team to bring back Stanley Cup glory to their city and to put an end to this drought that has lasted far too long for their liking.
5 The Collapse Of The 2015-16 Season
The 2015-16 season is one every Habs fan and player would like to forget. Things were looking great at first. The team broke a franchise record, starting the season with nine straight wins. Things went downhill once goaltender Carey Price re-aggravated an early season injury in November, and ended up missing the rest of the season.
The Habs went on to win a total of just six games between the months of December and January and were facing a horrific collapse. They wont just 20 games in the last five months of the season after winning 18 games in the first two months. The Habs finished with a 38-38-6 record and their collapse was their worst since the 1939-40 season. Many have even considered it as the worst collapse in franchise history. Nonetheless, the Habs made some changes and turned things around in the 2016-17 season and won the Atlantic division.
4 Their Terrible Trades
The Canadiens organization has made some terrible decisions in regards to trades throughout the team's history. Despite all the success this franchise has had, one might wonder how many Cups these trades could have costed them. Everyone knows how much the Habs completely mishandled trading Patrick Roy, getting absolutely nothing close to his value in return, let alone the fact that they embarrassed a future Hall Of Fame goaltender enough to have him want out. Roy went on to win two more Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche and the Canadiens are yet to win one since the trade.
Another popular terrible trade that the Canadiens have made was trading Ryan McDonagh to the New York Rangers for basically one decent season of Scott Gomez. We all know how Mcdonagh has turned out for the Rangers, and would have made the Habs a force to be reckoned with if they had him on their blue line today. The Canadiens have traded some other big names as well such as Chris Chelios, John LeClair, and Eric Desjardins for returns that never came close to the value that they were giving up.
3 Their Fans
The Montreal Canadiens probably have the most passionate fanbase in the entire NHL. Not only do they fill up the Bell Centre, but they fill up opponents arenas as you can find Habs fans in almost any arena in the league, especially in smaller markets. However, there have been instances where Habs fans have been called classless and many of these moments occurred when playing the Boston Bruins.
Prior to a playoff game between the Bruins and Canadiens at the Bell Centre in 2009, Habs fans began to boo when the American national anthem was being sung. This was an extremely disappointing and classless act on the part of the fans at the Bell Centre, to which even the Canadiens' GM and coach at the time, Bob Gainey, called them out for.
The fans at the Bell Centre went back at it again during a Bruins-Canadiens game in February of 2012, after Zdeno Chara was injured when being struck by a puck in the face. This led to the attendees at the Bell Centre cheering, in celebration of Chara being injured. Sure, Chara did nearly end Max Pacioretty's career the year before, but that's still not a valid excuse to cheer for the injury of any player.
It's safe to say that while there is tons of passion in the fans of the Montreal Canadiens, there are times where they've been classless to the point where they disappoint their own organization.
2 The Power Play Rule
The NHL changed the way power plays work at the beginning of the 1956-57 season. The rule used to be that teams had the ability to score as many goals as they could in the two minute man advantage, meaning that the power play would only expire when the penalty time was up. The league changed this to what is still the current rule, which is that teams can only score one goal on a two minute power play and after that it's back to even strength hockey.
The reason for this rule change was basically because the Montreal Canadiens were too good on the power play. In the previous season, the Habs' dominant power play scored 26% of the league's power play goals. The league quickly took action so that the power play would be a fair advantage for every team and it seems to have worked as this rule remains in place today.
1 Their 24 Cups Are Unbeatable
The Montreal Canadiens have led the NHL in Stanley Cup wins for a very long time and there may never come a day where we see them not have the most Stanley Cups. The only two teams that come close to the Canadiens are the Maple Leafs, with 13 Cups, who haven't won since 1967 and the Red Wings with 11, who last won in 2008. That's still not very close.
With the parity of the league these days, it's extremely difficult for teams to win consecutive championships, which lessens the likelihood of the Habs' Cup total ever being surpassed. The Canadiens' 24 Stanley Cups might be the most incredible achievement in their history and is the second-most in all of professional sports, behind only the New York Yankees who've won 27 titles.