Montreal’s a beautiful city. It’s one of my favorite places in the world, and the Bell Centre is absolutely breathtaking. It’s a relatively modern arena but it’s packed with history, being highlighted by the 24 Stanley Cup banners that hang from the rafters. This technically leads the NHL, but how many of these actually mean something?
Back in the Day
People so often forget that up until 1967 the NHL only had six teams. In theory, this essentially means that the Bruins, Canadiens, Rangers, Blackhawks, Maple Leafs, and Red wings each had a one in six chance of winning the cup every year. The Bruins weren’t near the caliber of Montreal but still managed to win three cups during that era. With only six teams, everybody was bound to get their name etched on lord Stanley at some point. Montreal won 14 out of their 24 cups during this time.
Although there were only six teams, Montreal did dominate- there’s no denying that. Just look at the late 1950’s where they won a league record five consecutive cups. This leads to one central question- what made them so good? The answer to this is that there was no draft. Up until 1963, teams could scout out whoever they wanted regardless of their age.
Montreal literally invented hockey, playing the first game ever right at McGill University in 1875. Like anything, it took some time for hockey to become fully globalized. This meant that for a while the Canadiens had the best players in the world right in their own backyard. Look at the names of all their star players from back in the day. Geoffrion, Beliveau, Morenz, Plante, Lafleur- they were all French and natives of Quebec. It’s like when you were a kid at recess. There was always that kid who would invent his own game, play it with his buddies, and declare himself champion every time.
Since the end of the original six era, Montreal has won 10 cups. These are more valid than the first 14, but the last time they won was in 1993. At the time there were still only 24 teams, so to this day the Canadiens are yet to win with a full 30+teams in the league. The 24 banners hanging from the rafters are a nice touch to the Bell Centre, but don’t take them at face value.
Cover image courtesy of Eyes on the Prize.