The Montreal Canadiens are easily the greatest franchise in sports history, and the most storied. They have had some of the greatest sport’s stars play for them, and some of the greatest coaches in the history of history, breathe down the necks of the players that performed so well for Les Habitants. They have also won more Stanley Cups than any other team in the NHL. I feel that every single hockey fan has respect for this franchise.
While all of that comes to mind and the greatness lives on, the one thing that stands out with this franchise more than anything else, are the people who cheer this team, the fans. Almost everywhere they go, let it be Toronto, Boston, Buffalo, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, New York, or any other NHL market, they have fans everywhere.
No matter where they go, they never fail to disappoint when it comes to controversy. They riot, they protest, they boo their own players if they aren’t happy with them, and that is why every single hockey fan, who respects the Canadiens themselves, has a known hatred for the fans. It’s all tradition.
Now, we know how storied this franchise has become. Let’s break things down and see how they got here. December 4, 1909 is the day that they were founded. Did the owner of the Canadiens and the NHA know that the Habs were going to be a monument in sports? I’m sure that they didn’t, but one thing that they did know, is that the rabid sport’s market of Montreal would drive hockey there.
The hockey fans of the Montreal area, supported a total of 3 NHA-L teams, in the years from 1903 to 1938, and 2 at a time for many years. When the Montreal Wanderers’ building, the Westmount Arena, burned down halfway through the 1917-1918 season, the Wanderers chose not to continue their already storied NHL history, and thus ending the history of Montreal’s first hockey club in the NHA.
The Montreal Maroons were the third professional hockey team involved in both the NHL and the Montreal area (after the Wanderers, and the Canadiens). They lasted until 1938, near the end of the Great Depression, where the Maroons were in financial turmoil, and since there were clearly no markets fit to support an NHL team at that time, they decided to fold and not come back.
That left the Montreal Canadiens to serve as one, for the great city of Montreal. While the Habs struggled during the great depression almost as badly, and in some cases worse, than other NHL franchises. They sometimes only drew 2,000 fans per game. They were even almost bought and moved to Cleveland, Ohio at one point, only to be saved by Maurice Forget and Ernest Savard.
However, despite the tough times, the Habs somehow managed to stay in Montreal, and it’s a good thing they did. They currently have a 21,273 attendance average, which is the capacity of their building. I was recently watching a hockey game in Calgary, which is 3,028 kilometres from Montreal and was amazed to see that every time the Canadiens scored, the building erupted.
However after seeing that Bleu, Blanc et Rouge compete with the C of Red, below the Saddle, I reminded myself of the fan base that the Canadiens have. The support around the hockey world for the Habs is truly inspiring, and when Habs’ fans take control of buildings like, the Air Canada Centre, the Scotiabank Place, and TD Banknorth Garden, let it be an example to younger franchises, that you have to earn your success.
Montreal and Toronto are very good examples of that. Both franchises have 100 years and 80 years respectively , experience in the NHL, and win or lose fans always show up. As always, I hope that you enjoyed this read.