Eight great moments in Montreal Forum history

Thursday, 11.29.2012 / 9:00 AM
Richard Milo  - NHL.com Correspondent

MONTREAL -- Forever considered as the temple of hockey, the Montreal Forum was the home of the Canadiens for 70 years until they moved to the Bell Centre in 1996.

The Forum served as home for the Habs for 22 of their NHL-record 24 Stanley Cup victories, and 12 times they lifted the Cup on Forum ice.

The Canadiens had so much success at the Forum, its walls were said to be inhabited by the ghosts of the past that helped the home team accomplish some extraordinary feats.

Former general manager Frank Selke asked toward the beginning of the 1950s that a passage from John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields" -- written during World War I -- be reproduced on the walls of the Canadiens dressing room, a passage that would come to define the team's sense of history and success: "To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high."

Holding the torch high was what the Canadiens always took great pride in during their years at the Forum, but the building was actually not meant for them initially.

When it opened on the corner of Atwater Ave. and Ste-Catherine St., the Forum was actually meant to house the Montreal Maroons, the city's other NHL team. But the Canadiens were invited to play the Forum's inaugural game because their own venue -- the Mount-Royal Arena -- relied on a natural ice surface that was not ready for game action yet. The Canadiens would only move to the Forum on a permanent basis two years later, and they would share the building with the Maroons until 1938 when their co-tenants folded.

The Forum's opening game between the Canadiens and the Toronto St. Pats was held on Nov. 29, 1924, a 7-1 victory for the "home" team. On this 88th birthday of the venerable hockey shrine, NHL.com looks back at eight of the most memorable moments that took place at the Forum, though the memories that were born there are far more numerous.

8. Maurice Richard becomes the NHL's leading goal scorer

It wasn't the most spectacular goal the "Rocket" ever scored at the Forum, but it was one of the most significant.

On Nov. 8, 1952, Maurice Richard sent a backhanded shot toward Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Al Rollins, who got a piece of the puck before it slid slowly over the goal line.

It was Richard's 325th career goal, making him the NHL's all-time leading goal scorer by breaking Nels Stewart's 12-year-old record, one many believed would never be broken.

The milestone goal came 10 years to the day after Richard's first NHL goal on Nov. 8, 1942.

Richard would retire in 1960 with 544 goals, and he was the NHL's leading scorer for three more years until Detroit rival Gordie Howe surpassed his mark in 1963.

7. Marty McSorley's illegal stick in Game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final

It was perhaps the most disappointing moment in the history of the Los Angeles Kings, and it happened at the Forum.

Not the Great Western Forum, but the one in Montreal on June 3, 1993.

The Kings were leading 2-1 and were less than two minutes away from taking a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final when a minor penalty was called on Kings defenseman Marty McSorley for using an illegal stick.

It was just the opening the Canadiens needed. Defenseman Eric Desjardins scored his second goal of the game with 1:13 to play, and he completed his hat trick in overtime to tie the series 1-1. The Canadiens would take the following three games to win their 24th and most recent Stanley Cup.

Coach Jacques Demers took a risk by asking referee Kerry Fraser to measure McSorley's stick, but he was going on the advice of his captain Guy Carbonneau.

McSorley has stated the Canadiens knew he had an illegal stick because they had brought the Kings' stick rack into their dressing room during the series, something Demers has vehemently denied. He says he simply took a chance when he needed a break, and that both Carbonneau and forward Vincent Damphousse had told him they believed five or six Kings players had illegal sticks.

With his hat trick, Desjardins became the first defenseman in NHL history to accomplish the feat in a Stanley Cup Final game -- a record he holds alone to this day.

As in 1986, Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs by winning an unprecedented 10 consecutive overtime games, including three against the Kings.

6. The Good Friday Massacre

Everyone expected an intense game when the Canadiens met the Quebec Nordiques for Game 6 of the Adams Division Final on Good Friday in 1984. The two sides had engaged in some verbal sparring through the media in the days leading up to the April 20 showdown, but no one could have foreseen what was to come.

Two bench-clearing brawls, 10 player ejections and 252 penalty minutes handed out by referee Bruce Hood sparked an in-province rivalry that quickly became known as the Battle of Quebec, arguably the most heated and fierce rivalry in NHL history.

The Nordiques held a 1-0 lead in the game when things began getting heated at the end of the second period, after Nordiques forward Dale Hunter ran Canadiens goaltender Steve Penney. Guy Carbonneau came to Penney's aide, and the benches quickly cleared. Canadiens enforcer Chris Nilan fought Nordiques defenseman Randy Moller and dropped him before Mario Tremblay locked horns with Nordiques star Peter Stastny, breaking his nose with a punch.

At the start of the third period, Hood took some time announcing the penalties and ejections, and all the players returned to the ice to renew the hostilities. To give an idea of just how heated things became, the Canadiens' Mark Hunter dropped the gloves with his brother Dale. It took another half hour before order could be restored.

With Stastny and Hunter ejected, the Nordiques were without their two leaders and stood little chance to hold off the Canadiens, ultimately losing the game 5-3.

So, who was to blame?

Nordiques coach Michel Bergeron accused his Canadiens counterpart Jacques Lemaire of intentionally targeting his two best players to get them kicked out of the game, while Lemaire maintained the Nordiques were trying to get one of his defensemen kicked out after he was already down to five players on the blue line.

And with that, the Battle of Quebec was born.

5. Too many men penalty costs the Bruins

He was known as the "Démon blond," or the "Blonde demon," because when Guy Lafleur would go flying up the right side of the ice with his blonde mane flowing behind him, everything was possible for the Canadiens.

Lafleur had six straight 50-goal seasons for the Habs from 1974-80, but if there is one goal that sticks out in the minds of his fans more than any other, it would be the one that tied the seventh game of the Stanley Cup semifinal series against the Boston Bruins on May 10, 1979.

The Canadiens were trailing 3-2 with time running down in regulation when the Bruins -- coached by Don Cherry -- were called for having too many men on the ice with 2:34 left.

Lafleur didn't wait long to strike, quickly one-timing a low shot past Bruins goaltender Gilles Gilbert to send the game into overtime, where Yvon Lambert would win the series for the Canadiens, who went on to capture the Stanley Cup for the fourth straight time.

4. Three Béliveau goals in 44 seconds forces rule change

Nicknamed "Le Gros Bill" -- or "Big Bill" -- Jean Béliveau was the prototypical big center that is so coveted today; except he was also one of the most skilled players in the NHL. He showed off that skill in such dominant fashion on Nov. 5, 1955 that he practically forced the NHL into a rule change.

Béliveau scored three goals in 44 seconds over the course of a single power play against the Boston Bruins that night, leading the Canadiens to a 4-2 victory.

The Canadiens' vaunted power play was already the NHL's deadliest weapon of that era, with Béliveau at center, Maurice Richard on right wing, Bert Olmstead at left wing and Doug Harvey and Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion manning the points. But Béliveau's hat trick forced the League to act in an effort to slow it down, and beginning the following season as soon as a power-play goal was scored the penalized player was permitted to return to the ice.

3. The New Year's Eve game against Red Army

Some games are so memorable they can cross generational boundaries, and the New Year's Eve contest on Dec. 31, 1975 between the Canadiens and the Soviet Red Army is certainly part of that short list.

The two sides finished the game tied 3-3, but it is still considered by many to be the greatest hockey game ever played. Canadiens star defenseman Serge Savard compared it to a perfect game in baseball.

Red Army goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, was bombarded with 38 shots, 16 of them in the third period alone. His play stood above that of everyone else, including the Canadiens' own legend in goal Ken Dryden, who faced only 13 shots.

The disparity in shots on goal could not possibly be a more misleading statistic in this case, however, as the Red Army team put an emphasis on puck possession like no NHL team had ever seen before. If the team was not going to get a quality shot, the puck would be worked around until a better opportunity opened up. Just such a chance came with 5:49 left to play in the game, when Vladimir Popov's potential game-winning shot clanged off the post to the left of Dryden.

With about one minute remaining, Tretiak made back-to-back stops on Jacques Lemaire. Seconds later, Boris Mikhailov raised both hands in the air when he thought linemate Vladimir Petrov had beaten Dryden, but the Montreal goaltender was able to recover in time.

A few years later, Dryden would say it was the greatest game he had ever taken part in over a career that included six Stanley Cups and the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union. After the game, Red Army coach Viktor Tikhonov called Canadiens forward Bob Gainey the world's best all-around player.

The Red Army arrived in Montreal on the heels of a 7-3 win against the New York Rangers that kicked off their North American tour. They would go on to defeat the Boston Bruins 5-2 and lose to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 to finish the tour with a 2-1-1 record.

But while tie games are rarely remembered even a week later, the Red Army's lone tie on the tour was by far the most memorable game the team played.

2. Thousands pay their respects to Howie Morenz

Prior to World War II, there was no bigger superstar in hockey.

Howie Morenz, known as the "Stratford Streak" because of his blazing speed, saw his career and his life come to a tragic finish during the 1936-37 season when he succumbed to a pulmonary embolism on March 8, 1937, six weeks after suffering several leg fractures in a game at the Forum against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chased by Chicago defenseman Earl Seibert, Morenz lost his balance and fell into the boards. Seibert was unable to stop his momentum and ran into Morenz, breaking his leg in four places.

Morenz had been traded away two years earlier, and the 1936-37 season marked his return to the Canadiens and the fans who adored him. Those fans were given a chance to officially say good bye to their hero when the body of Morenz lay in state at the Forum on March 10, 1937, and 50,000 filed through the arena to pay their final respects.

On the day of his passing, Morenz was the NHL's all-time leading scorer with 472 points, including 271 goals, but his mark would be eclipsed by Nels Stewart two years later. Morenz helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup three times, scoring the Cup-clinching goal twice. He won three Hart Trophies and led the Canadiens in scoring for seven straight seasons from 1926-1932.

His No. 7 was posthumously retired by the Canadiens -- the first player to be so honored -- on Nov. 2, 1937 at a fundraising game at the Forum that pitted a team of the NHL's best players against a team made up of stars from the Canadiens and the Montreal Maroons. This precursor to the NHL All-Star Game raised $20,000 for Morenz's family.

Morenz's daughter, Marlene, would go on to marry Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion. Both their son, Danny, and their grandson, Blake, would later go on to play for the Canadiens, making them the first family with four generations of NHL players.

1. A legend is born

The 1943-44 season marked the true arrival of Maurice Richard to the NHL, one where he scored 32 goals with 22 assists in 46 games in his first full season with the Canadiens.

But the makings of a legend may well have begun on March 23, 1944, when the "Rocket" scored all the Canadiens goals in a 5-1 win against the rival Toronto Maple Leafs at the Forum in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup semifinals.

Journalist Charles Mayer decided to name Richard as the game's first, second and third stars, and the following day newspapers in both Montreal and Toronto ran the headline, "Richard 5, Maple Leafs 1."

The performance captured the imagination of a province and the Québécois people, and a legendary figure was born. Richard would finish the 1943-44 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 12 goals in nine games to lead the Canadiens to the first of eight Stanley Cup championships over his 18-year Hall of Fame career.

The following season, Richard would notch eight points in a 9-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings at the Forum after moving his family into a new apartment all day -- a single-game scoring record that would stand for more than 30 years -- and he would become the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games. Off the ice, Richard became a larger-than-life figure who inspired a generation, a legacy that began one fateful night in 1944 when he nearly single-handedly beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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