The Bell Centre will never be the Montreal Forum. Admittedly, part of that statement stems from the fact that the Forum has literally decades of history on which hockey fans can look back. Despite its mere 90-year history, it’s clear the Forum will in one way or another last forever.
The Bell Centre? It’s been around since just 1996 and has already undergone one name change. In fact, the most historical moment the Habs enjoyed at their new venue may come down to a mere series victory secured on home ice.
Needless to say, the Forum, an official National Historic Site of Canada, has many more moments from which to choose. Here are the top 10 for your enjoyment:
Patrick Roy of the Montreal Canadiens.
On December 2, 1995, goalie Patrick Roy was left in goal for nine goals in a 12-1 home loss to the Detroit Red Wings. It may not be the most pleasant memory most Hab fans have of the Montreal Forum, but it is one of the most common people associate with the team especially from the last two decades.
Believing he was left in after a five-goal first period solely to be taught a lesson in humility by head coach Mario Tremblay, Roy, once he was finally pulled, walked over to team president Ronald Corey and told him he had played his last game for the Habs.
Four days later, Roy was traded to the Avalanche along with Mike Keane, and the rest, as they say, is history. Two Colorado Stanley Cups later, Roy is revered by Avalanche and Hab fans alike. Tremblay? Like a certain former mayor by the same name, not as much.
The Habs’ trade of Patrick Roy trade to the Colorado Avalanche soon after the Quebec Nordiques relocated there actually marks the cherry on top of a rivalry between two franchises that got especially heated in the 1980s.
Case in point: Game 6 of the Adams Division Final on Good Friday in 1984. A bench-clearing brawl resulted when Guy Carbonneau ran into Nordiques goalie Dan Bouchard and Dale Hunter proceeded to pin him to the ice.
It got so bad that apparently Hunter and his brother Mark (who played for the Canadiens at the time) eventually dropped the gloves as well (via NHL.com).
Needless to say, not exactly your father’s Keith vs. Wayne Primeau. Way more brutal. In all 252 penalties in minutes were called, 10 players were ejected, and the truly good part? Montreal won the game 5-3, clinching the series.
Alex Galchenyuk (center) of the Montreal Canadiens.
While Montreal played host to the first NHL Amateur Draft, it was held at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, and it would take 17 years before an NHL arena actually hosted the event.
Montreal actually hosted the first 22 drafts overall, with the last five of those being held at the Forum.
The 1980 edition, renamed the Entry Draft by then, interestingly marked the first time North American players between the ages of 18 and 20 (and non-North Americans 18 or older) were eligible to be drafted (before the prerequisite was 17 or older).
Of note, that historical draft saw the Habs choose first, and, “what a choice!”...is what people would say if he had enjoyed even remote success in the NHL. Not the case unfortunately.
Doug Wickenheiser will forever be remembered as the guy Montreal chose instead of Denis Savard. A difference in 1100 career points may not seem like a big deal, what with a Hockey Hall-of-Famer like Roy only having 45 total career assists, but people apparently do tend to frown at stats like those.
Thankfully, Montreal fans eventually got the chance to see Savard score 179 of those points in a Montreal uniform, with him joining the team in 1990 and staying through until the end of the 1993 season.
Savard was indeed a part of the 1993 Stanley Cup-winning Canadiens, who beat the Los Angeles Kings at the Montreal Forum on home ice in five games.
It was a series for the ages, at least for the Canadiens, who remain the only team to beat the powerhouse Kings in the finals. Crazy, I know, but I digress.
The Stanley Cup victory is of course the last in franchise history, and, unfortunately, with 30 teams now in the league and Montreal far from being a contender, it will at the very least be the last for a long while. As such, it belongs on this list to mark the end of an era so to speak.
In addition, the series included the infamous and controversial call of Marty McSorley’s illegal stick in Game 2 (also on Forum ice), which led to a 3-2 come-from-behind overtime victory and four straight wins to seal the series, with the Habs facing an 0-2 deficit without that critical turning point.
Another critical turning point in a playoff series came in 1970.
In Game 7 of the Habs’ semifinal against the Boston Bruins, head coach Don Cherry allowed an extra man to jump on the ice, leading to a late penalty, a game-tying goal by Guy Lafleur and ultimately the series-clinching goal in overtime by Yvon Lambert.
Montreal would go on to beat the New York Rangers for the Stanley Cup in the next round.
The series marked the third straight time (in three consecutive years) that the Habs had eliminated Cherry’s Bruins (the previous two times in the Stanley Cup Finals).
It was also the last game for Cherry with Boston, then going on to “enjoy” a single 19-48-13 season with the Colorado Rockies before retiring and joining the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for all of Canada to enjoy this time.
Love him or hate him, Cherry permanently etched his place in Habs and Forum history with that one game. French-Canadians may generally dislike him at the very least for his oftentimes-insensitive comments, but Montrealers at least will always outright love him for obvious reasons.
Most Canadians point to Paul Henderson’s Summit Series-winning goal in 1972 as the defining moment in Canadian hockey history. As such, how can one conceivably leave off Game 1 of the series, which took place at the Forum?
Of course, the 7-3 loss the Canadian side suffered may provide at least one argument to that effect, with most Hab fans probably preferring to block it out alongside memories of David Aebischer in net and all of the 2011-12 season.
However, there’s little denying that the game served as a springboard to an unprecedented spirit of national pride. For Hab fans, it also didn’t hurt that Team Canada’s roster boasted six different Canadiens (Yvan Cournoyet, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Ken Dryden and Frank and Pete Mahovlich), the most of any NHL team.
The Montreal Canadiens may not have beaten CSKA Moscow on New Year’s Eve 1975, but they did tie the Red Army, which was a fate better than that of five other NHL teams who participated in the Super Series, in which the Red Army and Krylya Sovetov Moscow toured North America.
In the end, the two participating Soviet teams posted a combined 5-2-1 record (the two losses suffered at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres), but the Habs won a moral victory in a sense, by arguably outplaying the Russians and outshooting them 38-13.
Of course, shots on goal don’t tell the whole story, which in this case constituted one of the best games ever played according to popular opinion.
To put it in perspective as to how the game was just anticipated heading in, 18,975 fans watched from the stands at the Forum (via Hockey Adventure).
“Only” 18,818 fans were in attendance during Game 1 of the Summit Series. Needless to say, no one went home disappointed this time around, except maybe the Habs.
For the record, though, Ken Dryden, who didn’t play his best game by far, still called it one of the best of which he had ever been a part.
Howie Morenz of the Montreal Canadiens.
If attendance is an indication as to just where a given event ranks in terms of historical importance, the funeral of Howie Morenz ranks right up there, with 50,000 fans paying their respects to the first superstar in Montreal Canadiens history (via NHL.com).
Morenz, who had rejoined the Canadiens in 1936 after spending three seasons away from the team with which he had started his illustrious 15-year career, broke his leg in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks and later passed away in the hospital due to a pulmonary embolism.
Two days after his passing, on March 10, 1937, the Montreal Canadiens organization and all his fans paid respect to him. Months later, his sweater was raised to the rafters, the first ever in the Forum, with eventually six others following suit.
The Rocket Richard Trophy.
Maurice “The Rocket” Richard was obviously one of those six whose jerseys hung from the Forum’s rafters when it closed in 1996.
However, despite all his accolades and scoring records, it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops as far as Richard was concerned. At least once it was about flying debris.
On March 17, 1955, after he had suspended Richard for the remainder of the season, NHL president Clarence Campbell thought it would be a good idea to test Hab fans and attend a Canadiens game, similar to how current NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would probably think it a good idea to wear a Habs jersey in a tough part of Boston with the current lockout in full swing.
The game, which the Detroit Red Wings won essentially by way of forfeit after it had been called to ensure the safety of fans, saw Campbell physically abused and even a tear gas bomb go off inside the Forum. Outside, it got worse, with windows getting broken and cars toppling over.
It definitely wasn’t Montreal fans’ finest hour, but it still constitutes a key point in Habs history as well as a pivotal moment in that of Quebec, as the whole incident arguably helped to spark a sense of nationalism within the province. If it wasn’t there before, anyway, it definitely was after.
Almost came about with a bang, one might say. Or a rocket.
It honestly may not be the most historic moment in the Forum’s history, but consider it a sentimental favorite. At the Forum’s closing ceremonies, with past team captains parading out on the ice, Richard was given a 16-minute standing ovation, fittingly the longest in Forum history (via cbc.ca).
There’s not much else to say on the matter, except for the fact that if the moment brought a player known for having fire in his eyes to tears, you may not be able to watch the clip above and keep your eyes dry.