Montreal Canadiens History
The Montréal Canadiens are one of five teams in the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Canadiens play at the Molson Centre in Montréal, Québec, Canada, and wear uniforms of red, blue, and white.
The Canadiens are the most accomplished team in NHL history. Montréal has won 23 Stanley Cup championships—more than any other NHL team—and has qualified for the playoffs in almost every year of the team’s existence. Montréal also won a Stanley Cup championship in 1916, a year before the NHL was formed. The Canadiens are one of two NHL teams, the other being the New York Islanders, that have earned more than three consecutive Stanley Cup titles. Montréal won five straight championships under head coach Toe Blake from 1956 to 1960, and four in a row under head coach Scotty Bowman from 1976 to 1979.
Originally members of the National Hockey Association (NHA), the Canadiens were one of the founding teams of the NHL in 1917. The club advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals five times from 1919 to 1931, coming away with three titles. Montréal’s early teams boasted several future Hockey Hall of Fame members, including defenseman Sprague Cleghorn, left wing Aurele Joliat, centers Newsy Lalonde and Howie Morenz, and goalies Georges Vezina and George Hainsworth. Vezina collapsed during a game in 1925 and died four months later. The Vezina Trophy, the annual award recognizing the NHL’s top goalie, was first presented in his memory in 1926-27. Hainsworth’s 22 shutouts in 44 games in 1928-29 stands as one of the league’s most remarkable feats.
In 1940 former Chicago Blackhawks forward Dick Irvin was named Montréal’s head coach. In Irvin’s 15 seasons with the team, the Canadiens reached the Stanley Cup Finals eight times and collected three league titles—in 1944, 1946, and 1953. In 1946 half of the NHL’s 12 All-Stars were Canadiens. Montréal’s top offensive players during this time were center Elmer Lach and right wing Maurice Richard. In 1945 and 1948 Lach won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading point scorer, and in 1945 he also received the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player (MVP). Richard was named MVP in 1947. Bill Durnan earned the Vezina Trophy six times between 1944 and 1950.
In 1955 Hector “Toe” Blake became head coach for the Canadiens. A former Montréal left wing who won both the scoring title and the MVP award in 1939, Blake built on Irvin’s success. He piloted the Canadiens to nine Stanley Cup Finals in 13 years. Eight of those appearances (1956-1960, 1965, 1966, 1968) resulted in league titles for the team.
Blake coached many future Hockey Hall of Fame members, including Maurice Richard and his brother, center Henri Richard. Other outstanding Canadiens during this time included goalie Jacques Plante, defenseman Doug Harvey, right wings Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and Dickie Moore, and center Jean Beliveau. Between 1956 and 1962 Plante earned six Vezina Trophies as the league’s top goaltender, and in 1962 he was also named the league’s MVP. Between 1955 and 1962 Harvey was awarded the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the league’s top defenseman six times. Geoffrion was the league’s top scorer in 1955 and again in 1961, when he was also named the league’s MVP. Moore was the league’s top scorer in 1958 and 1959. Beliveau was twice named the league’s MVP, in 1956 and 1964.
Blake retired in 1968. Under his successor, Claude Ruel, the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1969. Ruel’s lineup featured defensemen Jacques Laperriere and J. C. Tremblay. The team again won the Stanley Cup in 1971, this time under head coach Al MacNeil. Scotty Bowman, formerly head coach for the St. Louis Blues, then became Montréal’s head coach. In eight seasons he led the team to five league crowns (1973, 1976-1979).
Bowman’s roster of eventual Hockey Hall of Fame members included right wing Guy Lafleur, who was named league MVP in 1978 and 1979. He was also the league’s top scorer in 1976, 1977, and 1978. Other outstanding players included goalie Ken Dryden, who was awarded the Vezina Trophy every season from 1976 to 1979; center Jacques Lemaire; defensemen Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson; and wings Yvan Cournoyer, Bob Gainey, and Steve Shutt.
After 1979, the Canadiens did not win the Stanley Cup again until 1986, this time under first-year head coach Jean Perron. That year rookie goaltender Patrick Roy, at the age of 20, became the youngest player ever to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. He went on to win the Vezina Trophy in 1989, 1990, and 1992. Montréal earned its 23rd Stanley Cup title in 1993, and Roy earned his second playoff MVP award. Montréal remained a dominant club through the late 1990s and advanced to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1996, 1997, and 1998.
Official Montreal Canadiens Web Site