Thursday, December 04, 2008

99 Years Ago Today

Montreal Gives Birth To A New Hockey Team

It was 99 years ago today (or maybe yesterday, or the day before – it was a long meeting) that the Montreal Canadiens were born to take part in the brand new NHA. It all happened in the Windsor Hotel (which you may all think of as the building which now houses Le Piment Rouge restaurant on Peel):
During a meeting of the National Hockey Association (NHA), held in Room 129 of the Windsor Hotel, the Canadiens are founded by J. Ambrose O'Brien, a sportsman from Ottawa, with financial support from another magnate of the time, T.C. Hare. The latter providing the $1,000 required for the formation of a team as well as the $5,000 to guarantee the players' salaries. Mr. O'Brien delegates the task of forming and managing this new, largely francophone team, to Jack Laviolette.

Hence begins the 100th year of the Montreal Canadiens existence – the Jubilee Year. Now all the stories of 100 Decembers or Februarys are actually accurate.

If you want to get a flavour for the team 99 years ago, I urge you all to visit Robert L's site and find his retrospectives on the teams of yore (this is a link for 1909-10).

The game
Somewhat fitting I think that the game will be played against the New York Rangers. The Rangers have been a long-time rival. Their owner came up with the name Habs (allegedly) and they have the biggest draw of any American team – therefore the biggest possible audience pan-North America. Luckily, games with this team have also tended to be exciting recently, which should add to the spectacle.

If you can afford the time (and I know you can because you read blogs...) you will not want to miss the Canadiens game tonight. There will be a ceremony (I'm sure that will be to the usual standard, and fun even if you're ceremonied out). But for me, the particular excitement will be to see which sweater the Canadiens take to the ice with. Given the date and the ties with the very earliest of Canadiens teams, I have a good feeling that the Rangers won't be the Blueshirts in tomorrow's papers...

Inauguration of the Centennial Plaza
The other main excitement will be the unveiling of the plaza. I am excited to see all the statues and stones. Particularly excited, however, about the stone I share with my road hockey crew.

Knowing that I would not buy a stone for myself as my Expos brick lays in ruin, my friends pooled together and got me the stone as part of a wedding present this fall. And prior to the street hockey game that kicked off the bachelor weekend, they presented me with the certificate and the news – so I have been waiting to see what the brick will look like and which moments in Canadiens history it will be near. If there's a sense of our history in the Canadiens organization, the stone will be beside the one commemorating Brain Skrudland's Game 2 OT winner (and series turning point) in 1986:
From the faceoff, McPhee brings it in with Skrudland. HE SCORES!!
—Don Whitman calling Brian Skrudland's overtime goal in game two.

Pre-game ceremony
I expect tonight's game will also be preceded by an on-ice ceremony – which by all accounts is due to begin at 6:30 pm EST. It won't be Patrick Roy night perhaps, but expect to see some old-time Habs in attendance.

I'm gonna watch the proceedings from afar this time. But for anyone who wants to be at the heart of the action, there's at least one seat in the Reds going at a decent price to be had for tonight (Craig's list).

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