Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no argument with the success the Montreal Canadiens have enjoyed over the years.
The team was founded in 1909, making it the longest continuously run organization in NHL history. They first won the Stanley Cup under the leadership of George Kennedy in 1915-16, and were one of the five founding members of the NHL. After a bit of a rocky start in the new league, the Canadiens found success because of Howie Morenz, culminating in a Stanley Cup championship in 1924.
The Habs have been by far the most successful team in the NHL. They've won the Stanley Cup an impressive 24 times, easily surpassing the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings in second and third place. The Leafs only have 13 Cups (and famously, none since 1967) while the Wings have needed a great 20-year stretch recently to get up to 11.
In a 30-year period between 1950 and 1980, the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup an astonishing 16 times, while some of the game's all-time greats suited up in their signature red, white, and blue uniforms. I'm not sure there's a more dominant 30-year period in the history of any professional sport.
With that much success comes criticism. Fans of the team might chalk up these insults as sour grapes or jealousy, especially when they come from Maple Leaf or Boston Bruin fans. But there are plenty of legitimate reasons to hate the Habs. The franchise's history is littered with unfortunate moments that no fan should be proud of.
There are many people who love the Montreal Canadiens. Many more people cannot stand them. This is for the latter group.
15 15. Special Junior Advantage
It's long been believed that Montreal's success from 1950 to 1980 was because the team got first dibs at all the French Canadian players. This is only sort of true.
There was no draft until the late-1960s, meaning junior players were free to sign with any team that expressed interest in them. Obviously, the Canadiens had an advantage signing Quebec-based players under such a system, but these junior players could have signed anywhere.
14 14. P.K. Subban
P.K. Subban is one of the most exciting defensemen in the NHL today. He's one of the few players in the league with the offensive ability to lead his team on the power play (with that cannon of a shot) yet has the defensive chops to play big minutes against the other team's best players. He's truly one of the best in the game.
Montreal has handled Subban poorly for his whole career. In 2013 he expressed his wish to sign long-term with the club, but the Canadiens insisted on a bridge contract lasting just two years. After missing the first four games of an already lockout-shortened season, Subban gave in. He finally got the contract he was originally looking for after the 2014 season.
13 13. Stick Measurement
Late in the third period of game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals and with Montreal down 2-1 to the Los Angeles Kings, Canadiens coach Jacques Demers called for a measurement on Marty McSorley's stick. The curve was deemed illegal, sending McSorley to the penalty box. Demers pulled the goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage and Montreal tied the game up. They went on to win in overtime.
12 12. Alex Kovalev
Alexei Kovalev was one of the most frustrating players in the NHL. He was capable of being a bonafide superstar when his heart was in it, cracking the 40-goal plateau once and the 30-goal mark several times.
He was also injury-prone, inconsistent, and was known to sulk when things didn't go his way. Kovalev was notoriously poor on defense and had a reputation for being a puck hog and diving. And yet, the Montreal Canadiens kept him on their hockey team for five seasons.
During a playoff game against the Boston Bruins in 2004, Alex Kovalev was carrying the puck in overtime. He was slashed lightly on the wrist, losing the puck and taking out defenseman Sheldon Souray in his zeal to show the ref how hurt he was. Glen Murray picked up the loose puck and buried it.
11 11. Michel Therrien Hates Fun
There might not be a franchise in professional sports that takes itself as seriously as the Canadiens.
This attitude is personified nicely by a Michel Therrien decision from 2013. After victories, goaltender Carey Price and defenseman P.K. Subban would celebrate with the triple low five. It got to be something Habs fans would look forward to after games.
10 10. Taking Advantage of Inexperienced Owners
In the 1970-71 season, Canadiens GM Sam Pollock decided he wanted the first-overall pick so he could have prized French Canadian prospect Guy Lafleur. There was just one problem. The Canadiens were good. They ended up winning it all that season.
Pollack somehow convinced the California Golden Seals owner Charlie Finley to trade his first round draft pick to the Habs for Ernie Hicke. Don't bother looking Hicke up, he was terrible. Many accused Pollock of taking advantage of a naive owner.
9 9. Calling the Cops on Chara
In 2011, Zdeno Chara angled Max Pacioretty into the boards during a regular season game. Pacioretty ended up as a crumpled heap on the ice after his head struck the glass between the two benches.
It was a pretty violent hit that ended up giving Pacioretty a concussion and a broken neck. But it was obvious Chara didn't intentionally do it. The hit was a clean hockey play that ended up very badly.
8 8. Booing the American National Anthem
It's as dependable as death, taxes, and the Maple Leafs sucking. Canadiens fans love to boo the American national anthem.
A quick Google search reveals moments in 2009 (against Boston), 2010 (against Washington), 2004 (against Boston again), and in 2003 (against the New York Islanders) where fans at the Bell Centre booed the U.S. national anthem. At least the first three instances were during the playoffs. The one against the Islanders was apparently to protest the war in Iraq. Yeah, George W. Bush was sure shaking in his boots that night.
7 7. Patrick Roy
December 2nd, 1995 is a day that Habs fans would like to forget. After being left in for nine goals during an 11-1 defeat by the Detroit Red Wings, Patrick Roy told then team president Ronald Corey he was done with the Canadiens.
Four days later, one of the worst trades in franchise history was complete. Colorado acquired Roy and Mike Keane for Martin Rucinsky, Andrei Kovalenko, and Jocelyn Thibault. Don't bother looking any of those names up. They all sucked.
6 6. Demanding a French Speaking Coach
There's been a strong French Canadian bias throughout the history of the Canadiens. As the league has expanded and draft/free agency rules have changed, Montreal no longer has their pick of French Canadian talent.
This issue has manifested itself in the team's head coaching position. The team always insists on hiring a coach who can speak French, apparently because the press demands it. I'm sure the press would love if John Tortorella was nicer too, but the teams who hire him don't care because they couldn't give two craps about what the media thinks. This is the right attitude to have.
5 5. Riots
It's one thing to riot after winning the Stanley Cup. You know after a championship there's going to be a select group of yahoos who feel the need to light stuff on fire.
But Montreal fans are apparently too impatient to wait that long. In 2009, as a number one seed in the Eastern Conference, Canadien fans rioted after disposing of the Boston Bruins in the first round. Can you imagine what they'd do if they won the Stanley Cup? Downtown Montreal would look like Kabul.
4 4. Riots, Part Deux
During a game in March, 1955, Maurice Richard was high-sticked by Boston Bruin defenseman Hal Laycoe. In retaliation, Richard skated up to Laycoe and hit him in the face and shoulders with his stick. After eluding the linesmen who tried to restrain him, Richard eventually broke his stick over Laycoe's body and then punched linesman Cliff Thompson twice in the face, knocking him unconscious.
It was perhaps the most violent episode in the league's history, and President Clarence Campbell knew he needed to do something. He issued the harshest penalty ever to that point, suspending Richard for the rest of the regular season and playoffs.
Two nights later, Campbell (foolishly) appeared at The Forum for Montreal's game. All hell broke loose. Fans booed the embattled president, throwing eggs and tomatoes at him, starting a huge riot that spilled out into the streets surrounding The Forum. The riot forced the game to be cancelled, and it caused significant damage to the stadium and the neighborhood around it.
3 3. That Stupid Ole Song
I'm sure you've heard it. Whenever the Canadiens get ahead by a couple of goals and the fans think victory is imminent, they start singing this stupid song.
There's no history to the song. The first time the chant ever appeared is in a newspaper in 1982. It's not even French; the song originated in Spain. It's not a song about hockey either. You're most likely to hear it at a soccer stadium in Europe.
2 2. Living in the Past
Okay, Montreal, we get it. You had really good teams back in the 1950s and 1970s when there were fewer teams and you basically had first dibs on anyone from Quebec.
But would it kill you to shut up about it? The Canadiens are actually good right now, yet the team never misses an opportunity to bring the corpse of Dickie Moore back for another pre-game ceremony. There's always an anniversary for something. The recent centennial celebrations went on for approximately five years.
1 1. The Fans
Congratulations, fans. YOU are the biggest reason why we all hate the Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal fans are the most fickle in the game. They boo their own team constantly. They barely tolerate really good players who aren't French Canadian. They haven't had a thing to cheer about for the last twenty years, so they brag about successes of the past. And as soon as the going gets a little bit tough, they quit on their team faster than a P.K. Subban slapshot.
Canadiens fans are the most insufferable group of people on the planet. Former GM Bob Gainey summed it up best when asked about the fan base: "I think they're a bunch of gutless bastards, to be honest."
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