If you go around asking people in the hockey world which team has the most passionate fan base, a large majority of them will bring up the fanatics that cram into the Bell Centre during Montreal Canadiens home games.
They will likely also note that Canadiens fans can be as fickle as they are enamored with Les Glorieux.
Many a Montreal Canadien has stepped onto the hallowed Forum or Bell Centre ice only to find an angry mob raining down on them from every angle, rather than an admiring fan base cheering them on. Expectations are as high as they are anywhere in the league - and in the sporting world, for that matter - so it can become difficult to please the Montreal crowd at times.
Even legends have been unable to escape the wrath of the impatient Habs faithful - we needn't remind Montrealers of the ugly Patrick Roy debacle - and while they are easily forgiving, they are just as likely to never forget a bad goal let in, an untimely penalty or a particularly bad stretch of hockey.
They say Montreal can be the best place in the league to play hockey, but it can just as well be the worst. Aside from the sometimes irresponsible expectations placed on the players and coaches, there is the intense media scrutiny and the heavy burden of history that can weigh even the brightest stars down.
The names on this list will likely not surprise you and some may leave a sour taste in your mouth. While each situation is fairly unique, one constant remains throughout; these players, at one point or another, were loathed by a fan base that can reach both ends of the emotional spectrum with ease - loving and warm one night, nasty and unforgiving the next.
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20 Patrick Traverse
When a player makes the claim that he only played in the NHL for a certain amount of time - in this case about 300 games - because there are 30 teams in the league, you know that player probably didn't make much of an impact during his time in the big leagues.
That was the case for Patrick Traverse when he played with the Habs, a stint that lasted just over 100 games and didn't exactly inspire memories of Larry Robinson and Serge Savard. Traverse was a career AHLer at best, but the Habs chose to employ him as much more than that and his poor play earned him a ton of flak from disapproving armchair GMs around Montreal.
19 Carey Price
No need to do a double take here. While Carey Price has become the most beloved Canadiens player of the last decade and perhaps the best player in the entire National Hockey League, there was a time where Price was the city's black sheep - the high draft pick destined to become a bust while late draft pick Jaroslav Halak was blossoming into a star.
Price was chastised daily by fans and even got the Patrick Roy treatment a few times. All is well now, as Price has reached his potential and has become the backbone of the franchise.
18 Marcel Hossa
If you had to narrow it down to one reason in particular as to why Montreal Canadiens fans hated Marcel Hossa, it was likely because he was not his brother, Marian. Hossa came to the Habs with expectations of replicating what his brother had been able to do in the NHL up to that point, but the younger Hossa was never able to establish himself at the highest level. Habs fans are still bitter that their team passed on Marian many years ago but had no problem reaching for Marcel.
Matters only got worse for Hossa when his gloves, of all things, became a source of controversy and panic while he was a member of the Rangers. Montreal was rumored to be interested in Marian at the trade deadline, and a pair of red and blue gloves with the inscription "M. Hossa" that were delivered to the Bell Centre had Habs fans in a frenzy, which turned into an uproar when it was discovered that the mitts belonged to Marcel.
17 Mariusz Czerkawski
Like many who have donned the Habs jersey over the years, Mariusz Czerkawski came to Montreal with high expectations after three strong years with the New York Islanders. Czerkawski was a complete flop in Montreal and Habs fans let him know it on a daily basis. Czerkawsi became the team's whipping boy in the papers and on talk radio, and it was only a matter of time before the Polish Prince was on his way out of town.
To add salt to the wound, Czerkawski went back to the Isles the following year and rounded back into his usual form, potting another 25 goals.
16 Janne Niinimaa
It's bad enough when you trade a good player for a complete bust, but it's something else when you trade a hometown star-in-the-making for a guy who didn't do much else than ice the puck and frustrate the fan base to no end. Niinimaa was a dismal -13 in 43 games with the Habs, while Ribeiro finally broke out in Dallas. Niinimaa is often referred to as one of the worst acquisitions in franchise history - no matter what he did in a Habs jersey, he never really had a chance to win over the Montreal faithful.
15 Matt Higgins
Go through the Canadiens draft history over the past twenty years or so and you will see why the Habs have been incapable of sustaining any long-term success, let alone get back to a Cup Final. Matt Higgins was another poor high draft choice that never panned out and his lack of production, combined with the fact that a Quebec-native was passed to draft him (Daniel Brière) gave Habs fans all the ammunition they needed to hate on Higgins throughout his short time in Montreal.
14 Jason Ward
Jason Ward carved out a niche as a grinder, at best, but he was drafted by the Canadiens to fill an offensive role as the 11th overall pick. Ward was never able to do so in Montreal and deservedly drew the ire of the fan base relatively quickly. To make matters worse for Ward, the player the Canadiens passed on - and the player taken one pick later by the Ottawa Senators - was Marian Hossa, who is riding out a Hall of Fame career in Chicago after establishing himself as one of the top offensive players of the 2000s while playing for the Senators.
This was a familiar recipe for disaster in Montreal and Ward paid for it by taking a lashing from Habs fans for the majority of his stay with the Canadiens.
13 Ryan O'Byrne
This entry might be a little off the radar, but there's no doubt that there were a lot of people who had a serious hate-on for Ryan O'Byrne during his time with the Canadiens.
O'Byrne was a hulking defenseman, but was never able to establish himself on a relatively small blueline at the time, which frove Habs fans insane as the need for size in the NHL was at its peak. Here was a guy who could put players through a wall but couldn't do much of anything else at an effective level on a consistent basis. The icing on the cake was when O'Byrne inexplicably threw the puck into his own net during a delayed penalty and later came up with the reasoning (excuse) of wanting to pass it back to his goaltender, a play that might find itself into a hockey game a handful of times across an entire NHL season.
12 Georges Laraque
Georges Laraque was being hailed as a godsend when he signed with the Canadiens back in 2008. Laraque, though, had the look of a player riding out the end of his career and had little interest, for the most part, in doing what the Canadiens had brought him in to do - add toughness and lay down the law. Laraque still fought and his presence alone likely deterred some opposing players from taking liberties on some of the Habs skill players, but his uber-strict abidance to "the fighting code" angered the fan base who wanted him to push people around, this after years of watching Habs players getting tossed around like rag dolls. It never worked out in Montreal and even though he was a hometown boy, Laraque was never able to win over the fan base.
11 Jocelyn Thibault
I almost feel bad slotting Jocelyn Thibault into this list. It's not his fault he played on some less that stellar Habs teams. It's not his fault that he was a French Canadian goaltender playing under the brightest possible spotlight for a French Canadian goaltender. And, most of all, it's not his fault that he was the goaltender tabbed as Patrick Roy's replacement.
Did Habs fans care about any of that? Not one bit.
While Thibault was relatively good during the regular season during his time with the Habs, Thibault's play dipped significantly come playoff time. If there was a time for Thibault to be at his best and earn some good standing with Habs fans, it was during the months of April, May and June, the months of the year where Saint Patrick built his Hall of Fame resume. Thibault was never able to come close to replicating that and was blasted by fans because of it, right up until he shipped out of town.
10 David Desharnais
Read the entire paragraph before flipping out, Habs fans.
Today, David Desharnais is a serviceable and, for the most part, effective center for the Habs. He has put up solid point totals since earning a full-time spot on the Habs top-two lines and has developed a good chemistry with captain and top scorer Max Pacioretty that head coach Michel Therrien can lean on from time to time.
However, for a good chunk of time several years ago, Desharnais was the Montreal faithful's whipping boy. His struggles were well documented by both the English and French media and fans across the city were calling for Desharnais' benching, demotion, or even shipment out of town.
Add to the fact that Montreal mayor Denis Coderre tweeted that the Habs should send Desharnais down to Hamiton on a one-way flight added fuel to the fire and while many defended Desharnais, the majority of the city piled on and sided with the newly-minted mayor.
As it turned out, the controversy sparked Desharnais, who turned his season around and has been decent since. Don't get it twisted, though - you can't go a day listening to Montreal sports talk radio with at least one or two fans calling in with the sole purpose of shredding Desharnais.
No matter what Desharnais does from here on in, save for scoring the Cup winning goal, he will always be despised by a large faction of the fan base - justified or not.
9 David Fischer
The fact that David Fischer made this list says a lot about how big of a bust he was. Not only did Fischer never come anywhere close to making the National Hockey League, he barely had a cup of coffee in the American Hockey League before moving on to play in Europe.
Fischer stands out because he's one of the few Habs busts that the casual Habs fan will bring up when discussing the team's lack of success at the draft table during the early parts of the 2000s. Fischer was not only a massive bust, he was taken two picks ahead of Claude Giroux, who has not only become a superstar but was also playing down the road from the Bell Centre with the Gatineau Olympiques. Fischer, meanwhile, was an NCAA player with the University of Minnesota - Bob Gainey went through an NCAA phase for a few years during the mid 2000s.
Several did not pan out.
Bob Gainey is no longer employed by the Montreal Canadiens.
8 Alexander Perezhogin
Alexander Perezhogin was drafted late in the first round by the Habs with the hopes that the Kazakhstan native dynamo would develop into a top flight scorer with the Canadiens. It never materialized and the latest Habs draft bust became one of the final straws for Habs fans who were sick and tired of the mediocrity that had seeped into the franchise. Perezhogin was largely ineffective in his short time with the Canadiens and was often pointed out as one of the main reasons for Montreal's popgun offense. Perezhogin didn't stick around long enough for Habs fans to truly chew him up and spit him out, but he was here long enough to leave a bitter taste that Habs fans can still faintly remember, even after ten years.
7 Tomas Kaberle
It was a running joke for awhile that Tomas Kaberle had been so bad in Carolina that the Habs might be able to get him for cheap to help a struggling power play - but it was nothing more than a running gag for most Montrealers...until one fateful morning when it wasn't just a joke anymore.
Kaberle was traded straight up for veteran rearguard Jaroslav Spacek and while Spacek's play was declining near the end of his career, the trade was still pretty horrendous. Kaberle was on a short leash from the start - what else would you expect from a guy who always seemed to hurt the Habs as a Leaf, then went on to win a Cup with the Bruins? Kaberle did nothing to win over the fans in Montreal and earned the whipping boy label fairly quickly, a label that lasted until he was finally let go.
6 André Racicot
Nicknamed "Red Light Racicot" for his penchant of letting the lamp light up as pucks flew past him, Racicot was doing something that few were able to accomplish - anger a fan base while spending most of his career as a backup. Racicot had a rough go for most of his time in Montreal, playing in the shadow of the legendary Patrick Roy while trying to appease a demanding fan base every time he stepped into the crease. The nickname, which has a catchy ring to it, didn't help his cause much either.
5 Rene Bourque
Habs fans have a way of trying to justify trades before the player they are acquiring even finds out about the trade himself. The Mike Cammalleri for Rene Bourque deal was a fiasco from the get-go, as Pierre Gauthier traded the fan favorite Cammalleri for Bourque in the middle of a game. Bourque had scored 27 goals in a season before, though, so he should be able to do that in Montreal, if not better right?
Bourque was never able to latch on in any capacity, save for one half decent playoff run and was reminded constantly by Habs fans - during games and otherwise - about how badly he was playing. Bourque had plenty of chances in Montreal and never seized any of them, and in that sense Habs fans had every right to despise him as a player, especially since Cammalleri has continued to put the puck in the net.
4 Doug Wickenheiser
Doug Wickenheiser was doomed from the start.
It's hard enough to be the first overall draft pick and come into a city like Montreal during the years following three separate dynasties in three separate decades. Wickenheiser was expected to pick up where those before him had left off, but the centreman was unable to fill the large shoes of the likes of Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur and countless others.
Add to that the fact that the Canadiens passed on Quebec native and future Hall of Famer Denis Savard and it becomes even more apparent that Wickenheiser had no chance from the start - and the fans let him hear about it every chance they had.
3 Sergei Samsonov
For years, Habs fans were disappointed when top end players would become free agents and pass on the Canadiens' offers to go play in a city with less pressure and attention, even if it was for a bit less money. Sergei Samsonov was one of the few who was brave enough to step into the ring of fire and he ended up paying for it dearly. Granted, Samsonov's production had dipped severely once he joined the Habs, but he received little to no love from Habs fans from the get go and was ultimately driven out of town to the tune of nearly 22,000 booing Montrealers.
2 Patrice Brisebois
Patrice Brisebois was - and likely still is - the king of the boobirds in Montreal. No player has taken the type of abuse Brisebois took during his first sting with the Canadiens. He was dubbed "Breeze By" by fans due to his defensive shortcomings and likely felt as though he was living in London most of time thanks to the consistent downpour of boos that were showered down on him from the nosebleeds on a consistent basis. Brisebois, to his credit, had the courage to return to the Habs for a second stint, and while he was treated better in the twilight of his career, he was reminded of the "glory days" more than once.
1 Scott Gomez
There was no question that Scott Gomez was going to own the top spot on this list - and it wasn't even close. In one of the most ill advised trades in franchise history, Bob Gainey shipped out top prospect Ryan McDonagh (among others) for Gomez. While Gomez was key in attracting big name free agents in the summer of 2009, his stint in Montreal will be remembered more for the ire he drew from Habs fans and his seemingly never-ending goalless drought that stretched over two seasons.
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