Saturday, December 5, 2009

Montreal Canadiens Centennial Celebration Jersey Retirements

The Montreal Canadiens surprised those in attendance last night when they retired the numbers of #16 Elmer Lach and #3 Émile "Butch" Bouchard after previously stating they had no plans to retire any further sweater numbers from the past.

"Not only were they star players in their day, but emile Bouchard and Elmer Lach are widely considered to be two proud Montrealers who dedicated their lives to their team and to their community. They are most deserving of this honour," said Montreal Canadiens President, Pierre Boivin.

Bouchard, a defenseman, was nicknamed the "Rock of Gibraltar", was a four time All-Star and in 1948 became the captain of the Canadiens, the first Quebec-born player to do so. During his career he would win the Stanley Cup four times, twice while as team captain, and would go out on top, retiring after winning the Stanley Cup in 1956.

The QMJHL's Defenceman of the Year Trophy is named in his honor and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.

Here is team captain Bouchard being presented the 1953 Stanley Cup

Elmer Lach was part of "The Punch Line", along with Maurice Richard and Toe Blake, and led the NHL in scoring twice and was awarded the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1945. He would win three Stanley Cups in his 14 year career and score the Cup-winning goal in overtime in 1953 and have his nose broken by Richard's stick when he leapt into his arms in celebration!

He retired in 1954 as the league's all-time leading scorer up to that point and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, also in 1966 along with Bouchard.

The "Punch Line" - Richard, Lach & Blake

Updating yesterday's post, while the Canadiens had already retired Lach's #16 in honor of Henri Richard, the retirement of Bouchard's #3 now means the Canadiens have taken seven of nine single digit sweater numbers out of circulation and 12 numbers under #20. Only #6 and #8 remain in the single digits and the 15 retired numbers in honor of 17 players is by far the most of any NHL team, with Boston's 10 being the next highest.

During the raising of Bouchard's #3 banner, current Canadien Ryan O'Byrne reprised Ray Bourque's surrendering of his #7 jersey to Phil Esposito by removing his current #3 jersey and presenting it to Bouchard, revealing his new #20 sweater.

The first video, following Jean Beliveau, is the introduction of Lach and Bouchard and the announcement that their jersey numbers will be retired, followed by the second video which shows the raising of the banners, along with O'Byrne surrendering his #3 sweater.

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