One of the oldest and still functioning sports franchises in North America, the Montreal Canadiens, also happen to be the most successful NHL team around, having won the Stanley Cup a league-leading 24 times! They formed in 1909 as a part of the National Hockey Association, which eventually morphed into the National Hockey League that we know of today in 1917. However, by that time the Canadiens had already earned a first Stanley Cup in 1916 led by Georges Vezina and Didier Pitre.
Continued success would come in 1924, 1930, and 1931 with more titles, but the Great Depression would soon put the club into a period of decline, which actually led to the end of local rivals, the Montreal Maroons. Things would improve the following decade, with two more titles, led by players like Maurice Richard, Elmer Lach, and Toe Blake.
However, beginning in the 1950s, the Canadiens would become the mightiest of dynasties that the NHL has ever seen, claiming 16 titles over a span of 27 years. Legendary players over this period included Jean Beliveau, Jacque Plante, Bernie Geoffrion, Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, and many more in a list that would go on for pages! Such dominance was unprecedented and is still today a remarkable achievement that is unlikely to be replicated in any other sport.
But in the 80s other teams began to catch up. Not only had the NHL expanded, but other franchises were beginning to close the gap in quality. However, Montreal was able to stem the tide and continued to compete! In 1986, led by a rookie goalkeeper Patrick Roy, the Canadiens earned another Stanley Cup, defeating the Calgary Flames in 5 games. Chris Chelios was also a top contributor to the team that season.
In 1993, the Canadiens won their most recent and 24th championship. Again Roy was the main man in the goal while guys like Vincent Damphousse, Kirk Muller, John LeClair, and Brian Bellows also contributed.
Things would take a turn for the worse the following season, and the Canadiens have yet to recover. The ultimate low point came following an 11-1 thrashing at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings in 1995. Roy was angry with his coach for being left in the abuse for so long, and was traded away several days later.
In 1996, Montreal built their hockey team a new home, now known as Bell Centre. For the next decade the team would be an average NHL competitor, sometimes reaching the playoffs but failing to earn another title or even progress far. Things turned around in 2010 when the Canadiens made roaring charge all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Behind Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, and Scott Gomez, hope was restored in Montreal, though their Stanley Cup dream eventually fell short.
Fortunately, the team has built off of that success, engineering another Conference Finals run in 2014, this time led by P.K. Subban, Carey Price, Brian Gionta, and Max Pacioretty. They are knocking at the door and seem well intent on earning their city a 25th Stanley Cup. Something tells me this current group of players has the toughness to win it all, and I expect the Montreal Canadiens to bring the Cup back to Canada sometime soon!
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