In the winter of 1909, Ottawa businessman J. Ambrose O'Brien with the help of Jack Laviolette, founded the Club de Hockey Canadien. The club played its very first game in 1910 in the National Hockey Association. They won the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship in 1916 by defeating the Portland Rosebuds of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Les Canadiens were one of the four original clubs when the National Hockey League was founded on November 22, 1917. The Club Athlétique Canadien changed its name to officially become Club de Hockey Canadien and begans displaying the celebrated "CH" crest. Even though the Montreal Forum was constructed for the Montreal Maroons, the Canadiens were the ones who inaugurated it in 1924 as the Mount Royal Area was under repair. The Canadiens won their second championship by defeating Calgary and continued to build their team and fostered a heated rivalry with the Maroons. In 1926 the Canadiens permanently moved to the Forum.
The frequent Stanley Cup appearances continued as Montreal won again in 1930, defeating the Boston Bruins. Hockey mania was continually being fed in Montreal as they were back at it the very next season, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in a five game series to win back to back Stanley cups. When the Canadiens weren't winning cups, the Maroons were staking out their share of glory. But with the Great Depression of the late 1930s, Montreal could not support two NHL teams and the Maroons were sold. Further tragedy struck Montreal in 1937 when Howie Morenz sustanied a serious injury in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks. He never recovered from the injury and would eventually pass away later that year. The Habs would build their team with yet another star in the 1940s. Maurice Richard, better known as "the Rocket" would carry Canadiens hockey into the post World War II era. The Canadiens won their first Stanley Cup since 1931 when they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in 1944. Maurice Richard's stock continued to soar as he came to the brink of scoring 50 goals in 50 games. The Canadiens won another Stanley Cup in 1946 defeating the Boston Bruins in five.
Changes were upcoming in Montreal as Frank Selke joined them from the Maple Leafs in 1946. He would build an impressive farm system that would sustain the Canadiens franchise for decades to come. The Montreal team that emerged in the 1950s was based on Selke's vision with future hall of famers Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Dickie Moore, and Jacques Plante. The team came together to win the Stanley Cup in 1953 beating the Boston Bruins in five. Three years later the Canadiens were back at it, this time defeating the Detroit Red Wings in another five game series. This win though was only the first of five straight Stanley Cup championships won by the Montreal Canadiens, a record setting performance. The Habs conceded the Cup in 1961, but were back in contention in the 1965 postseason. Back to back Stanley Cups in 1965 and 1966 were won against Chicago and Detroit respectively. With Sam Pollock now in control as general manager, a new crop of superstars were soon ushered into the Canadiens system. Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt and Ken Dryden would play significant roles in future championship teams. Their Stanley Cup victories in 1968, 1969, 1971 and 1973 would go on to solidify them as one of the greatest teams in NHL history.
The Habs would make yet another memorable run in the latter half of the 1970s. In 1976 they ended the three-peat aspirations of the "Broad Street Bullies" from Phiadelphia. The Canadiens would go on to defeat the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, and New York Islanders in the next three years to cap off their four straight Stanley Cup championships. The 1980s saw the emergence of a brand new Quebec rivalry as the Quebec Nordiques joined the NHL as an expansion team in 1979. The Canadiens continued to field successful teams, making the playoffs throughout the 1980s. What was lacking though was a Stanley Cup appearance. That was solved in the 1986 finals as the Habs rolled through the playoffs behind a local, rookie goaltender, Patrick Roy. They were matched up against the Calgary Flames in the finals and behind a Conn Smythe performance by Patrick Roy, defeated the Flames in a five game series. Roy would be back in the finals with the Canadiens in 1993, when they defeated the Los Angeles Kings in what is often described as a story book run, with numerous overtime victories. That Stanley Cup victory would give the franchise a record 24 championships.
Not long after their Cup win, the Canadiens found themselves in a very strange situation. They missed the playoffs in the 1994-95 season leading to many changes on the ice, trading their franchise player, Patrick Roy, to the Colorado Avalanche. In 1996 the Canadiens finally moved out of the famed Montreal Forum, moving to their new downtown facility, the Molson Center (eventually named, Bell Center). In the late 1990s the team continued to make the playoffs but was no where near the Stanley Cup form it had showed in the past. The 21st century has so far not been very kind to the Montreal Canadiens. After missing the playoffs for a couple of years, the Habs were back in the 2002 postseason. They defeated Boston, 4-2, in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals before losing to Carolina, 4-2, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Montreal Canadiens Overview:
Arena: Bell Centre
Stanley Cups won: 24 (1916, 1924, 1930, 1931, 1944, 1946, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1986, 1993)