Sunday, November 29, 2009
Called "The Most Storied Building in Hockey History" by the Sporting News, the Montreal Forum opened on this date back in 1924 as the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Montreal Canadiens took on the Toronto St. Pats, winning by a final score of 7-1 on three goals by Billy Boucher, two by Aurel Joliat and one each from Silvio Mantha and Howie Morenz.
The Forum was originally home to the Montreal Maroons, the team of choice for the city's English speaking fans. The Maroons played there from 1924 until their demise in 1938, winning a pair of Stanley Cup championships in 1926 and 1935. Two years later the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal's French speaking fans favorite club, would begin to call The Forum home in 1926, where they would play for 70 years and win 22 Stanley Cups.
Located at Avenue Atwater and Rue Ste-Catherine, the forum was built in a mere 159 days for a cost of $1.5 million on the location of a prior roller skating rink named The Forum, which was retained as the name for the new ice hockey rink. It originally held only 9,300 fans and was renovated in 1949 to hold 12,500 and again in 1968, after which the capacity had grown to 17,959, of which 1,600 were standing room. By the time the Montreal Forum closed in 1996, 90 million people had passed through it's doors.
In addition to the Maroons and the Canadiens, the Montreal Victorias and Montreal Royals of the Quebec Senior Hockey League, also called the Forum home in addition to the many junior and other amateur teams that kept the ice occupied in hockey mad Montreal.
The longest game in NHL history occurred at the Forum in 1936, when the Detroit Red Wings and the Maroons playoff game went on and on, before being settled in favor of the Red Wings 1-0 in the sixth overtime after 176 minutes and 36 seconds on a goal by Mud Bruneteau at 2:25 AM.
In 1937 Howie Morenz, who had scored a goal during the opening night of the Forum in 1924, would lie in state at center ice following his premature death due to complications from a leg injury suffered during a game in 1937.
The first live broadcast of a game by the CBC was from the Montreal Forum, as "Hockey Night in Canada" made it's debut on October 11, 1952 when the Canadiens defeated the Red Wings 2-1.
The Forum was also the site of the shocking first game of the 1972 Summit Series, where heavily favored Team Canada broke out to a quick 2-0 lead before being steamrolled by the Soviet Union 7-3.
One of the most famous games played at the Forum was the New Year's Eve contest between the Canadiens and the Soviet Red Army Club in 1975, considered by many to be one of the greatest games ever played.
Other events held in the Forum included boxing, tennis and wrestling. During the 1976 Summer Olympics hosted by Montreal, the Forum was the site of handball, basketball, volleyball, boxing and gymnastics, including Nadia Comaneci's famous first perfect 10 in Olympic history. Concerts included The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and The Rolling Stones.
One of the most famous locations in the Montreal Forum was the Canadiens dressing room, a virtual museum in and of itself, with photos of past Canadiens Hall of Famers on the wall and the famous inscription "Nos bras meutris vous tendent le flambeau, à vous toujours de le porter bien haut." which in English is "To you from failing hands we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high."
Today's featured jersey is a rare 1935-36 Montreal Maroons Russ Blinco jersey. This is the final style of jersey worn by the Maroons during their 14 year run. It is one of only four known jerseys in private collections outside of the Hockey Hall of Fame and sold at auction back in 2006 for $53,589.80.
Blinco was the first ever recipient of the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1933-34 and won a Stanley Cup with the Maroons in 1935, scoring the game winning goal in Game 2 of a three game sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs. After five seasons with the Maroons, they folded and Blinco played his final season with the Chicago Blackhawks. He scored 59 goals and 88 assists for 125 career points in 267 games.
Today's video section starts off with a great find, footage from the first ever televised hockey game from the Montreal Forum in 1952.
Here are highlights from Game 1 of the 1972 Summit Series held at the Forum when the relatively unknown Soviet Union shocked all of Canada by defeating Team Canada 7-3 after quickly falling behind 2-0.
Next is the historic New Year's Eve contest between the Montreal Canadiens and the Soviet Red Army which featured a matchup of goalies Ken Dryden and Vladislav Tretiak and is considered one of the greatest hockey games ever played.
Finally, the six minute ovation given to Canadiens legend Maurice Richard during the closing ceremonies at the Forum following the final game on March 11, 1996.