Were the Montreal Canadiens Really Born on December 4, 1909?

Daniel Bigras@@tricoloreCorrespondent IAugust 19, 2008

Was the Club de Hockey Canadien really born on December 4, 1909?

A simple question that should have been easily and quickly answered. But unfortunately it wasn’t—and it’s still pending a true answer.

Yes, Les Canadiens were founded on that day by John Ambrose O’Brien, who beat George Kendall Kennedy to the race of creating a team with French Canadians.

That fact was confirmed on Canada’s biographical site, where it is written that Kennedy purchased the franchise Les Canadiens for $7,500.

Unfortunately, this is where the confusion starts.

In his book Trail for the Stanley Cup, Charles Coleman mentions that the Montreal Canadiens come from another franchise—not Les Canadiens but from the Haileybury Comets, another team owned and operated by John Ambrose O’Brien. That franchise was transferred to George Kendall on November 12, 1910.

I know that Wikipedia is not always the best of sources, but it’s a good start and there are many similar texts that use the Charles Coleman book as a reference.

This is not the only source for that information. On page 28 of his book Toute l'histoire illustre et merveilleuse du Canadien (ISBN 2-89043-197-5), Claude Mouton writes the same thing—George Kendall Kennedy got the Haileybury Comets franchise, not Les Canadiens.

Mr. Mouton doesn’t mention his sources—but maybe he’s also using the book by Charles Coleman, since it was written in 1966.

One thing that is certain is that Mr. Mouton doesn’t write that the Comets were transferred in Montreal and renamed the Montreal Canadiens. When reading the paragraphs on page 28, there’s something missing, as if history was cut.

In another article, of which I don’t know the original source, it is written that George Kendall Kennedy allowed John Ambrose O’Brien to temporarily use the word "Canadiens," which he legally owned.

This permission was given until his organisation, the Club Athlétique Canadien would decide to expand its activities to hockey.

Which he did in 1910, when M. Kendall inquired to the National Hockey Association about getting an expansion franchise.  At the time, it is written that the franchise Les Canadiens was suspended by the league, because of financial problems and legal threats by George Kendall if the name Canadiens was not given back.

The Haileybury Comets also had financial problems, because the small town couldn’t support a professional hockey team—but it wasn’t suspended by the league.

According to this text, the league did not give a new franchise to George Kendall, but instead transferred him the Haileybury Comets.

The bottom line is simple. According to these books and texts, George Kendall Kennedy did not get the franchise Les Canadiens, but instead got the Haileybury Comets. He then transferred the franchise to Montreal and renamed it the Montreal Canadiens.

But he did not hire anyone from the Comets—he wanted to have a French Canadian team. He instead hired all the players from the suspended team and its player-coach, Jack Laviolette. 

This might be the source of the confusion regarding the beginning of the Montreal Canadiens.

The funniest part in all this—again, according to these texts— is that the franchise Les Canadiens was transferred to Toronto, either as the Tecumsehs, as written on Eyes On The Prize, or as Eddie Livingston’s Blueshirts, as written in Charles Coleman book.

Where is the truth?

The Haileybury Comets were founded in 1906, in the Timiskaming Professional Hockey League. A known player played for them, Art Ross. George Kendall supposedly got that franchise on November 12, 1910.

Again, where is the truth?

The only way to get the true answers would be to confirm which franchise George Kendall got. Was it Les Canadiens or the Comets? If it’s Les Canadiens, then the 1909 date still holds. But if it’s the Comets, then it’s somewhere in 1906.
Are they already 102 years old?

I have an appointment with the Quebec National Library to read The Trail of the Stanley Cup by Charles Coleman, and also The Story on the Montreal Canadiens by Andy O’Brien.

But even if I confirm that it is written in these books, while the opposite is written elsewhere, how can I confirm who writes the truth or not?

Anyone care to help?

This article is in no way, shape, or form my interpretation or my opinion on the matter. I’m simply reporting the information that I’ve found and asking questions, looking only for the truth.