Friday, December 4, 2009

100 Years of Glory

"To you from failing hands we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high"

The words have been lifted from John McRae's poem entitled "In Flanders Field".

Since 1952, those words have lifted:

A team.
A province.
A nation of hockey worshippers.

Living up to those words has been an honor, privilege and a responsibility for thousands of players since they were hung on a dressing room wall in 1952, first at a shrine called the Forum, and now at a facility titled the Bell Centre.

In Montreal, those words, matched with the faces and ghosts of legends, have inspired the Canadiens to become one of the most successful sports franchises on the planet. The "Habs" rank right up there with other iconic teams such as the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, Manchester United and Green Bay Packers.

Given what the players have to live up to, their fans expect nothing less than success.

It was on this day in 1909, when the hockey world witnessed the birth of the Montreal Canadiens at Montreal’s Windsor Hotel thanks to businessman J. Ambrose O’Brien. On January 5, 1910, almost a month after the team was founded, the Canadiens took to the ice for the first time and wasted no time endearing themselves to the hometown crowd. Three thousand fans watched as the Canadiens posted a thrilling 7-6 victory over the Cobalt Silver Kings at Jubilee Arena.

A century later, millions will be watching as the Montreal Canadiens 100th anniversary celebration culminates with the team’s Centennial Game against the Boston Bruins tonight at the Bell Centre. The Centennial celebrations have included:

- Commemorative dollar coins from the Royal Canadian Mint.
- Commemorative stamps issued by Canada Post.
- Canadiens Monopoly.
- Centennial jersey nights when the Habs wear historic sweaters of the past.
- "Centennial Plaza" outside of the Bell Centre.
- Concert by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra
- Canadiens movie, "Pour toujours, les Canadiens"!

But, no matter how much the Habs try and live up their towering history, the storied franchise is still struggling to recapture its past Stanley Cup glory. As they face off against the Bruins tonight at the Bell Centre, many still long for titles seemingly left behind with the closing of the Forum.

The ubiquitous relics, rituals and symbols linked to this 100-year old hockey team have created a brand that borders on religion. Canadiens worshippers have long told stories of the ghosts of players past that reside in the Forum - and Bell Centre - rafters, and the many miracles performed by Morenz, the "Rocket", Beliveau, Plante, Savard, Lafleur, Dryden, Shutt, Gainey, Roy and others.

In most North American cities, hockey is played and watched for fun.

In Montreal, the Canadiens exert a near spiritual influence.

Echoed in words and deeds from the past.

"My parents gave me a pair of skates when I was three, maybe four years old – everyone had a sheet of ice in their yard back then – so my friends and I started skating, then we started listening [to the radio], then we started dreaming, and eventually we started maybe seeing ourselves in that Canadiens jersey”


Anonymous said...

Hockey certainly is a religion in Quebec. " The Father, Son and the Goalie Post"

Reeta said...

Thats really cool........I read about brand samsonite also completing a 100 years. I own several was given to me by my dad in marriage. For the unitiated; The Samsonite story began in 1910 in Denver. Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company was founded. Jesse Shwayder’s goal – “To produce and sell an uncommonly well-made trunk that would stand up to the most rigorous travel”. Today; an Indian named Ramesh Tainwala.. owns a stake in the company's Asia operations and is doing us proud...far more than Ms.Indra Nooyi...whos only a professional. Tainwala is an entrepreneur-professional