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Montreal Canadiens

Conference: Eastern

Division: Atlantic

Stadium: Bell Centre (capacity 21,105-23,152)

Head Coach: Martin St. Louis (2022-present)

Starting Goaltender: Sam Montembeault

Star Players: Nick Suzuki (C), Cole Caulfield (RW), Mike Matheson (D)

2022-23 Regular Season: 31-45-6 (15th in Eastern Conference)

2023 Playoffs: Did not qualify

Legendary Former Players: Maurice (Rocket) Richard (RW), Jean Beliveau (C), Jacques Plante (G), Guy LaFleur (RW), Patrick Roy (G), Ken Dryden (G), Pete Mahovlich (C)

Stanley Cups (NHL Championships): 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

Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens, known in their home Francophone province of Quebec as Les Habitants or the Habs for short, are quite simply the most famous hockey team of all time. A line from the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian World War One poet John McCrae stretches across the walls of the Canadiens dressing room along with portraits of the franchise’s greatest players. “To you from failing hands we throw the torch,” the words proclaim. “Be yours to hold it high.” For many years, the team was dominated by local, often French-speaking players who took up this torch with great determination and pride, bringing a huge total of 24 Stanley Cups back to Montreal, by far the most of any NHL team. The Canadiens were founded in 1909, before the NHL even existed, making them the oldest professional hockey team in the world. They won their first Stanley Cup in 1916 over a team from Oregon called the Portland Rosebuds and added three more before the beginning of the era known as the Original Six, considered by most to be the dawn of the modern NHL and one of hockey’s great Golden Ages. With players like the incomparable Maurice (Rocket) Richard, the Canadiens were an intimidating opponent throughout this 25-year period, particularly for any team visiting the roiling cauldron of Le Forum de Montréal. In 1955, when Richard was suspended for the remainder of the season, including the playoffs, for punching a linesman, the passion of the local fans boiled over so fiercely that they took to the streets and rioted, causing heavy property damage until the star winger himself appealed to the crowds to calm down. On the ice, the Canadiens won 10 Stanley Cups during the Original Six era (and lost 6 Finals too) with their heaviest period of dominance from 1956-1960, when the team won 5 straight Stanley Cups. The Canadiens developed intense rivalries with all the teams in the Original Six, particularly the Toronto Maple Leafs (as the only two Canadian teams) who they often faced in the playoffs and the Detroit Red Wings. Their rivalry with the Boston Bruins heated up more in later decades, as the Bruins of the Original Six were the doormats of the league. While the other Original Six teams found it hard going in the late 1960s and 70s following the NHL’s quick expansion, the Canadiens blossomed again under the talents of Guy LaFleur and Pete Mahovlich along with Ken Dryden in goal. The team won 10 more Cups in just a 15-year period, terrifying the league with their relentless speed, skill, and aggression. Under the guidance of Scotty Bowman, then a young coach who would go on to become regarded as perhaps the greatest head coach of all time, the Canadiens would go on a Cup streak that nearly equaled that of their predecessors in the 1950s, lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup four times in a row between 1976-79. The Canadiens’ dominance came to an end in the early 1980s with the emergence of the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers dynasties, though a young goaltender named Patrick Roy from Quebec City saw them through to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1986, where they defeated the Calgary Flames to win the franchise’s 23rd Cup. Through the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s, the Canadiens seemed to play the Bruins almost every year in the playoffs, generating one of the fiercest rivalries of the time (along with the short-lived Battle of Quebec with the Quebec Nordiques). The Canadiens managed one more Cup with Roy in 1993, downing Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings in five games, three of which the Canadiens won in overtime (in a row). For many years afterwards, Canadiens fans wondered if their team would ever get another shot at Cup #25 and had probably almost given up until when in 2020 they beat their oldest rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in a seven-game thriller before pushing on to their first Stanley Cup Finals in 28 years. It was all seeming like victory was written in the stars, but the Tampa Bay Lightning proved to have no regard for romantic narratives, sending the Canadiens home empty-handed in just five games. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Montreal fans hoping to see their storied team return to glory and it seemed to send the team into a slump from which they have not yet fully recovered. Can the Habs rediscover the old magic? Will they ever bring home that elusive 25th Stanley Cup? Who will pick up the torch?

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