The Montreal Canadiens are the New York Yankees of hockey. They were founded in 1909, which predates the dawn of the NHL, and have been the game’s most dominant franchise ever since with a record 24 Stanley Cup titles, including 22 since 1927. Among North American sports teams, only the Yankees have won more championships with 27. But in recent years, the Canadiens have fallen on hard times. They have not won the Cup since 1992-93, when eventual Lightning coach Jacques Demers led them to the title with a finals victory over Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings. The Canadiens are, however, the most honored team in the game’s history, with a record 44 players earning induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, including Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Guy Lefleur, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Lemaire and Patrick Roy.
The Canadiens are one of the few teams in sports with a motto: “To you from failing hands we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high.’’ It comes from the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written by John McCrae in 1915, the year the Canadiens won their first Stanley Cup. Since then, it has appeared on the wall of the Canadiens’ dressing room, originally at the Montreal Forum and now at the Bell Centre.
Decoding the logo
The classic C and H logo design stands for “Club de Hockey Canadien,” which is the name the team took in 1917 after dropping its original name, “Club Athletique Canadien.’’ The H stands for hockey, not habitants or habs, which is a common misconception. The team’s main nickname is the Habs, an abbreviation of “les habitants,” a reference to French settlers in the Canadian Province of Quebec. The Canadiens’ red, white and blue uniform design was adopted in 1914 and has remained virtually the same ever since.
Goaltender Carey Price is easily the team’s best-known player. He helped backstop Canada’s run to the Olympic gold medal in Sochi, Russia, earlier this year and is a three-time All-Star. He works behind a team that is probably best known for its defensive corps, where three players — P.K. Subban (Canada), Andrei Markov (Russia) and Alexei Emelin (Russia) — represented their countries in the Olympics this year. The team’s top forwards are 39-goal scorer Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek, but with 60 and 68 points, respectively, neither ranked among the top 30 point producers in the league. Though not a star, per se, the Canadiens general manager should be familiar to long-standing Lightning fans. He is none other than Marc Bergevin, an original Lightning defenseman.