|Montreal Canadiens||Montreal Maroons|
Art has the Louvre, opera has La Scala, and hockey had the Montreal Forum. It did, that is, until Monday night, March 11, 1996.
After the Canadiens ushered that evening's guests, the Dallas Stars, out the door, they locked them for good.
The Olympia in Detroit is gone, the Stadium in Chicago with its Barton Organ is gone, even the Gah-den in Boston has been reduced to rubble. The venerable Forum soon followed, leaving only Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto for hockey archaeologists.
The closing of their old workplace saddens retired hockey players, the building's demise reminding them, perhaps, of their own impermanence.
"You do get a lump in your throat," says 73-year-old Hal Laycoe of Langley, B.C., a stay-at-home defenceman for the Canadiens for three seasons.
"Sure, the building was old, but it's spick and span. The red, white and blue is everywhere. It's an old, well-preserved building. Goldarn it, the players they had!"
For 72 years, the Forum has been home to some of hockey's greats: Morenz, Richard x2, Beliveau, Plante, Lafleur, Dryden, Robinson, Savard.
"You walked into the place and you knew you were in for a hell of hockey game," says Howie Meeker of Parksville, B.C., the TV hockey analyst and former Maple Leaf star. "You never had a night off and you never had an easy game in the Forum, unless you quit."
In Montreal, at the foot of a mountain dominated by St. Joseph's Oratory on one side and an illuminated cross on another, hockey fans have long made pilgrimages to a secular shrine.
They came away with their own indelible memories - of a Guy Lafleur rush, a Rocket Richard goal, a Jacques Plante save; of hot dogs wrapped in toasted bread; of a mad dash for a coveted spot along the standing-room rail; of an involuntary shiver as Roger Doucet performed O Canada.
The Canadiens had been in existence 15 years when Sir Edward Beattie (President of CPR) decided they should have a home of their own. Along with Senator Raymond Donat (who served as President of the Forum and the Club de Hockey for 33 years) and H.L. Timmins (who financed the project) the plan came to fruition on November 29, 1924 when the Montreal Forum opened it's doors to the public. It was built at a cost of $1,500,000 Cdn. and had a capacity of 9,300 seats which was increased to 12,500 seats in 1949. It was a more modest ice palace when it opened its doors as the new home of a fine Montreal hockey club - the Maroons, cheered by the city's English speakers.
Still, the Canadiens, as defending Stanley Cup champions, were awarded the honor of playing the first game in the 9,300-seat Forum, which took its name from a roller-skating rink that stood on the site. The Habs beat the Toronto St. Pats, sometimes called the Patsies, by 7-1.
The Forum became the Canadiens' permanent home two seasons later in 1926.
At 8:24 p.m. on March 24, 1936, the puck was dropped to start a playoff game between Detroit and the Maroons. It took until the sixth overtime period, making it the longest game in NHL history, before Mud Bruneteau scored the game's only goal for a Detroit victory. It was 2:25 a.m. and some fans in the Forum were reading newspaper accounts of the earlier action.
Less than a year later, on Jan. 28, 1937, Canadiens star Howie Morenz caught a skate in a rut along the boards and suffered a double fracture of his left leg. The Stratford Streak died in hospital some weeks later. Tens of thousands of mourners filed past his casket as he lay in state at centre ice, where he had won so many faceoffs.
The Canadiens suffered on the ice and in the ledger during the Depression, and the Forum nearly was sold to become a streetcar barn.
It was after the 1945-46 Stanley Cup victory, when Frank Selke became general manager, that the Canadiens began building what would be hockey's greatest dynasty, as the club qualified for 10 consecutive Cup finals in the '50s, winning six.
Opposing coaches groused about penalty calls made and missed, always to the Habs' advantage in their eyes. Some fretted that the Canadiens were being helped by "The Ghosts of the Forum."
In 1949, renovations added 3,163 seats at a cost of $600,000.
"When you were in there, you were in awe of the place," says 67-year-old retired referee Lloyd Gilmour of Nanaimo, B.C. "It made you a better player and it made you a better official, the Montreal Forum."
It was also where a latent nationalist pride found expression in the Flying Frenchmen.
That sense of identity coupled with hockey fever and fueled by raw hooliganism led to the Richard Riot on March 17, 1955, the most infamous night in Forum history.
During a stick-swinging fight in Boston with Hal Laycoe, a former teammate and tennis partner, the Rocket had slugged a linesman. NHL president Clarence Campbell suspended him for the rest of the season and the playoffs.
Campbell then took his regular seat at the Forum for a game against Detroit. The crowd took up a chant: "On veut Richard, a bas Campbell" (We want Richard, down with Campbell). Campbell, sitting with his fiancee, was pelted with debris. A man slugged him. Finally, a tear-gas canister exploded and the crowd spilled into Ste Catherine street, where they smashed storefront windows.
Days later, Laycoe and the Bruins arrived in Montreal.
"The front page of the paper had a headline: 'Police Fear For Laycoe's Safety.' Then there's a whole column about the steps being taken to protect me," recalled Laycoe, who later became the Vancouver Canucks' first coach. "One of the paragraphs starts off: 'Even if a maniac wanted to shoot Laycoe, he wouldn't get time to point the gun.' This is in the paper and I'm playing that night.
"I'm wearing No. 10. A bloody bull's-eye for that maniac who's been challenged saying he couldn't make the shot.
"Oh, it was a very relaxed atmosphere. They even put pepper on all our towels."
No room better captured the Forum's mystique than the Canadiens' locker room. Photographs of Montreal's hall of famers stare mutely down at those who have followed them in wearing the storied rouge, blanc et bleu.
A line from the poem In Flanders Fields is emblazoned on the wall: "To you with failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high!" It is repeated in the other official language.
Cesare Maniago was just 23 when he first tip-toed into that room in 1962. "You're in awe when you first go in there," said Maniago, a goalie for five NHL teams over a 15-season career. "You look around and you've always idolized these guys. To be in the same room as them, and to see the slogan, you just sit down and take it all in without saying too much."
By 1968, to accomodate fans' appetite, the Forum underwent extensive remodelling. The basic frame, the stands and the seats remained intact. The $10 million renovation project was completed during the off-season (May-November), and despite the tight deadline, everything finished on schedule. The result was the present-day, air-conditioned 18,000 seat arena that stands at the corner of Atwater & Ste Catherine.
The Forum was also used as a concert venue, and in 1993, the Forum introduced the Theatre du Forum - a comfortable curtained environment with a more intimate seating configuration accomadating 5,500 people.
Now, the Forum's 16,259 seats and even the 24 championship banners are for sale, a price tag having been put on a priceless tradition. Soon, the Forum will be relegated to memory as were the likes of Delorimier Stadium and Rocket Richard's 544 Tavern (named, as all Habs fans knew, not for a street address but for his career goals) before it.
"Expansive yet intimate, exuberant yet unselfconscious, it supports and complements a game, never competing for your attention," goalie Ken Dryden wrote of the Forum in his 1983 book "The Game".
"And when a game ends, fading away, it gives you nothing to detail the impression it leaves - just a memory of the game and the unshakable feeling that you've watched it in its proper place."
Courtesy of Les Canadiens Yearbook and Mario Perrazzino
The Forum was home to the most succesful sports franchise in the world, and that success gave the venue unique status. From the bronze castings in the lobby to the faces of Morenz, Richard, Harvey, and Beliveau in the locker room, inspiration permeates this hockey shrine. "Everyone has heard so much about the Montreal Canadiens," said former Calgary Flames assistant coach Guy Charron. "It's natural when you go into the Forum to associate all that has happened in the past - the Stanley Cups, the players, the dynasties. The New York Islanders won four Stanley Cups and the Edmonton Oilers won five, but their buildings are not the same. You have a special feeling when you enter the Montreal Forum."
This vibrant, nostalgic arena stimulates all the hockey senses and motivates home team and visitors alike to peak performance. "It's always been my personal favorite," said former Wings assistant coach Dave Lewis, "It has tremendous appeal for a hockey player because of the champions that have come out of that building. French Canadian players get a special thrill going in there. The Forum has great nostalgia, charisma and mystique."
"When you step on the ice you experience the wonder of a little kid," said former Kings enforcer Marty McSorley, "You're skating around where guys you've admired all your life have skated, our hockey heros. You see all the Stanley Cup banners in the rafters, and you remember all the great games. It's really special."
From the south, take route 15 north to route 10; follow route 10 west across the Champlain Bridge, where it turns into route 15; this takes you to route 720 north; after 2 miles, follow signs to the Forum.
Montreal Forum history
- First regular-season game: Nov. 29, 1924, 7-1 over the Toronto St. Pats
- First Stanley Cup finals game: April 3, 1930, 4-3 over the Boston Bruins
- May 21, 1979: Montreal beats the Rangers 4-1 to clinch its fourth consecutive Stanley Cup and 10th at home.
- June 9, 1993: The Canadiens defeat the Kings 4-1 to clinch their 24th Stanley Cup.
April 8, 1998 - Pierre Chastenais writes:
Bonjour, from Montreal!
Surfed to your site featuring sports stadiums and arenas, and had to go to the OLD FORUM page. The informations were correct although there was some misquotes: (Authors note: The number of Stanley Cups is a representation of the number of Cups won by the home team or in essence, the number which were housed at this residence.)
16 Stanley Cups were won (final game) at the Forum: 12 by Les Canadiens, with the last two in 1979 and 1993: 2 by the Maroons in 1926 (first cup won on Forum Ice) and 1935: Calgary won the cup in 1989 against the habs when they had the best team: and the Rangers, who in 1928, won the cup against the Maroons as the great Lester Patrick played goal during one game! note that the Rangers were bumped from Madison Square Garden by the circus and ALL cup final games had to be played at the Forum.
The capacity of the Forum, including standing room sections was 17,959.
I used to work in the Old Forum and moved to the Molson Center, since 1987. Before, I knew a little bit of Forum information, as my first Canadiens yearbook was given to me by Mr. Camil DesRoches, long time publicist for the Forum and the Canadiens, back in 1975 during an ice show. When I finally entered the Forum to work for the maintenance crew, my love for the building was much greater! Unfortunately, I didn't work during the final game but I worked after as I was on (the) nightshift on garbage duty, (a) job I had for the last three years of the building. I have to admit, my toughest times were: during the 1993 cup finals against L.A., as three games were played there and the 2 games in L.A. were shown on giant screens inside the Forum; and the final games in 1996 when I had to do my job and to be security at the same time, as Fans wanted to have something from the Forum!
The Forum still stands, corner Ste-Catherine and Atwater, but everything inside was either sold to the highest bidder, or still used at the Molson Center, like the snow bucket we use for picking up the excess snow and water after ice shavings with both Zambonis!
If you need to know more from a worker's perspective from the Old Forum, you can Email me at: Pierre Chastenais
This is my email address at home, as I live close to the Forum as it took me 15 minutes to walk from home to the legendary building, which I miss very much as it's not the same at the Molson Center...
Pierre Chastenais, from Montreal
November 10, 1998 - Habs' pro scout Mario Tremblay informs that the Montreal Forum has been purchased by a group from Paris, France. Intentions are to turn the site into a shopping centre/movie theatre complex ...
Image graciously provide by Canderel Corporation
On September 2, 1999 Leslie Quinton of Canderel wrote: Please note that the Montreal Forum was purchased in 1997 by Canderel, a Montreal-based property manager and developer. Our intention is to continue the great tradition of the Forum as the premiere site for the city's entertainment and special events by creating a world-class entertainment center slated to open in August 2000.
You will see that the shell has been retained but we are converting the interior to contain a four-storey (plus basement) enteratinment complex, preserving the original structure of this great building as well as its name. The project has been designed to highlight the amazing past of this building as the home to the most incredible moment in hockey history (not to mention other sports, music, etc.) by our creation of a free multi-media show called The Legends of the Forum. We are also re-creating Center Ice and the original scoreboard to pay hommage to the Forum's heritage.
On August 18, 2002 Sportsfreak2125@aol.com wrote: Dear Ballparks.com
I am a big fan of your site and I have some information concerning the Montreal Forum which is long, but bear with me.
Last June, I traveled back to Montreal (my hometown) for the third time since I left in 1997. Back then, the Forum looked like it's former self, but was still unoccupied. I had heard of the renovation plans but I wanted to see for myself what had happened to the site. For one thing, the Forum now has corperate sponsorship. It is now known as the Pepsi Forum Entertainment complex. It now looks something like a mall than a hockey arena, with movie theateres and restaurants to boot. But there is still evidence of the building's origional purpose, the home of the Montreal Canadiens.
As you enter the Pepsi Forum from the Atwater entrance, a sidewalk memorial comemorationg the Canadiens' 24 stanley cups. When you enter the building, one of the first things you may notice is that the old Forum seats are still around, now used to give visitors a place to sit and relax. From the ceiling, several goal lights hang from the ceiling keeping with the hockey theme.
The floor is painted white with a hockey center line going through the middle. This leads to the center of the building, where the Forum center ice is replicated onto the floor, CH and all. Also, a section of the old Forum seats has been preserved and put on display, empty except for one statue of a Habs fan still cheering the team on. Next to the seats is a bench with another statue, this time of a Canadiens hockey player waiting to start his shift. A quick check on the player's jersey number (9) pointed to the obvious answer, the statue is of Maurice Richard, probably THE greatest player to play for the Habs (a large 9 still hangs over the side of the building). As I was leaving, I noticed that in an little corner by the exit, they hung pictures depicting the renovation process. What they did was demolished the interior of the old arena, leaving only the shell standing. They then proceded to construct a brand new interior for the new Forum.
One amusing fact is that in one picture, showing the demolishion of the seating area probably two-three years after the place closed down, one of the auxillary scoreboards still showed 4-1, the final score of the last Forum game. Ah, the memories.