Montreal Forum, 1945
The Montreal Canadiens called Montreal Forum home ice for 70 years, from 1926 to 1996. During that time, the Canadiens played 2,367 games, with a record of 1,492-529-346 (.703 winning percentage). Not only did the Canadiens win 22 Stanley Cups, but their co-tenants at the Forum, the Montreal Maroons (who played there from 1924-1938), won a pair of Stanley Cups as well.
In short, Montreal Forum has been home to an iceberg-size chunk of the most successful, skillful and exciting NHL hockey ever played, featuring such legends of the game as Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Jacques Plante, Guy Lafleur, Howie Morenz, Jean Beliveau and Elmer Lach.
Montreal Forum — History
Le Forum de Montreal was built in 1924 in only 159 days, with a seating capacity of 9,300. The cost of construction was $1.5 million CAD, which equates to about $22 million USD in today’s money. The Montreal Maroons, who joined the NHL in 1924 as a team designed to appeal to the English-speaking citizens of Montreal, became the Montreal Forum’s first NHL tenant that year. They didn’t waste much time ramping up: The Montreal Maroons won the Stanley Cup in 1926, beating the Victoria Cougars 3-1, with all four games being played at the Forum. The Maroons would win the Stanley Cup again in 1935, topping the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0, again winning the decisive game on home ice. Although the Maroons fizzled out three years later, in 1938, they are remembered as one of the most competitive and accomplished teams in early NHL history.
As for the Montreal Canadiens, their achievements at Montreal Forum are probably known to every hockey fan in the world. The team’s 22 Stanley Cup victories while at the Forum is an NHL record by far — and along with that, the Canadiens captured seven conference championships and 20 division championships during their 70-year stay.
To accommodate the ultra-loyal fans whose enthusiasm for the team grew with every season, the Forum went through several renovations, adding about 4,000 seats in 1949 and another 3,000 or so in 1968. When the Forum closed in 1996, its total hockey seating capacity was 16,259. (By way of comparison, Centre Bell, current home arena of the Canadiens, has a hockey seating capacity of 21,302.)
The last NHL game played at Montreal Forum was on March 11, 1996, when the Canadiens beat the Dallas Stars 4-1. Although the Forum was shut down after the 1995-96 season, the structure still stands — inside is a movie theater and entertainment complex, but the center ice circle remains, as does a small section of the Forum’s red seats.
Montreal Forum — Great Moments
- The saddest moment at the Forum was almost certainly the funeral of Howie Morenz, the legendary Canadiens center who tragically died at age 34, the result of an injury he suffered at the Forum in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks in 1937. No fewer than 50,000 fans paid their respects, with his casket having been placed at center ice.
- Perhaps the most bittersweet moment at the Forum occurred in 1996, after the final game against the Stars. Maurice Richard, on hand for postgame activities, got a 16-minute standing ovation and began to cry.
- Montreal Forum’s most violent moment — and a very long “moment” it was — had to be the epic Good Friday Massacre of 1984, in which the Canadiens and their arch rivals, the Quebec Nordiques, squared off in a playoff melee that resulted in 11 ejections and a whopping 252 minutes of penalty time. (The Canadiens won the game 5-3, thereby winning the series.)
- Championships? Great games? Not enough space here to even start a discussion, considering the number of successes achieved by Canadiens teams over their decades at Montreal Forum. It’s wonderful a bit of the old arena still exists to help rekindle the great memories.
(Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons)