The Canadiens have strong ties to the community that supports them. The tight bond that exists between fans in Montreal and their favorite team has as much to do with the work the Habs do around the city as it does with their performance on the ice.
Conscious of the impact the CH logo can have, and driven by a desire to give back to the community, members of the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation and the club's community relations department work tirelessly every day to improve the lives of the people around them. The community relations group has grown over the years, allowing the Canadiens to give back with even more events and programs within Montreal's boroughs. But becoming one of Quebec's community leaders through various healthy living initiatives didn't happen overnight.
"Just like the countless organizations and foundations working in Quebec, our Foundation puts all of the necessary efforts into collecting funds and diligently reinvesting them back into the community. We work to put different initiatives and fundraisers in motion, and create partnerships with major donors in order to ensure that the Foundation has the revenue it needs to operate our BLEU BLANC BOUGE outdoor rink program, in addition to distributing funds to organizations who, like us, encourage underprivileged kids to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. The work of actually allocating the funds is just as important as anything we do and it's something we do with reflection and rigor," indicated Genevieve Paquette, executive director of the Canadiens' community relations department and the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation.
"The communities where we install BLEU BLANC BOUGE rinks are carefully studied and analyzed; donation requests must respect our mission and the precise criteria we have in order to ensure that we have a real impact on children through our contributions. Everything is analyzed, discussed, and approved by our administrative council," continued Paquette.
Through their values of accessibility, generosity, teamwork, and commitment, the Canadiens combine their resources, along with those of the community, to work toward the common goals of improving the lives of others through concrete actions, and inspiring those around them.
The Foundation's initiatives have permitted the Canadiens to continue giving back on a daily basis throughout the year. While some initiatives, like the BLEU BLANC BOUGE rinks, the RadioTéléDON, the annual blood drive, the team'syearly visits to children's hospitals, and the 50/50 fundraiser
are widely publicised, they represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the organization's commitment to the community.
"Since its creation in 2000, the Foundation has given nearly $25 million back to Quebec. Last year alone, the Foundation invested $2.5 million in the community with legacy projects like a refrigerated outdoor rink in Laval, on top of the donations that were made to some 60 organizations," emphasized Paquette.
"The Canadiens also support nearly 800 organizations annually by offering autographed items for their fundraising efforts, organizing visits, offering invitations to games, as well as staging awareness activities
during the Hockey Fights Cancer and Bell Let's Talk campaigns. Through several educational initiatives, like the Canadiens@School program and the grants provided in collaboration with the Quebec Foundation for Athletic Excellence, the Canadiens also offer academic support to more than 10,000 teachers and 500,000 students. Those community-based initiatives have a total economic impact estimated at $1.5 million, which brings the annual contribution to $4 million."
Nearly 200 volunteers devote 10,000 hours annually to different events and community activities associated with the organization's four pillars of social responsibility, including health, education, hockey development, and collective well-being.
Despite their already busy schedules, the players never hesitate when it comes to lending a helping hand to a good cause, and each of them has their own way of contributing, whether it's during team events or those organized by the Foundation, or through personal initiatives of their own.
"I'm happy to have an opportunity to help people who need it. It's all for a good cause. I get to go to the Shriners to see the kids a few times a year in Montreal. You see the situation they're in and it really puts things in perspective. You want to do anything you can to help," shared Brendan Gallagher, who over the past two summers has organized a celebrity softball event in Vancouver to benefit the Shriners Hospital for Children in Montreal.
"I've always had a soft spot for children's charities. I appreciate the Shriners' efforts and how much heart they have. It's something that speaks to me and I want to do whatever I can to help. We also want to raise as much money as we can for the cause," continued Gallagher.
A Montreal resident since March 2015, Jeff Petry quickly understood the impact the Canadiens have in the community. His wife, Julie, created the Extra Mile Allies group with some of the players' spouses last summer to raise funds for the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation and the JP Foundation, in conjunction with the Oasis Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Montreal. For his part, the defenseman recently accepted a role as a Bowvember campaign ambassador for PROCURE, an organization that is leading the fight against prostate cancer.
"It was something I wanted to get involved in because I've been affected by it directly," explained Petry, who lost his grandfather to the disease nearly three years ago. "It means a lot. That's just more of an incentive to get involved. I think it touches everybody in one way or another.
"I would just encourage people that if it runs in their family, to get it checked. Even if it doesn't [run in your family], do the screening and the check up because it's something that, if caught early, can often be cured," added the Canadiens' No. 26. From golf tournaments and partnerships with companies like Valeurs mobilières Desjardins, Canadian Tire, Rio Tinto, and Ford, to Valentine's Day baskets assembled by the players' spouses, and the sale of mystery pucks, the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation offers many ways for current players to get involved. Children's hospital visits, blood drives, and hockey skills clinics throughout the year all give the Habs a chance to share their talents and help spread joy to people around the province.
For the very first time this year, during the official opening of training camp, a formal presentation was made to players in order to explain to them - and especially to the new members of the Canadiens family - that the organization is there to help if they'd like to donate their time and expand their community involvement, one way or another.
"In this organization and in this market, there are so many opportunities to give back. I know everyone on this team has the right mindset to do so. People can see what we do away from the rink sometimes, how much we're able to contribute to the community. Everyone in this room has taken advantage of those opportunities. We know it goes a long way in this city and we're just happy to help out," attested Pacioretty, who created the Max Pacioretty Foundation in 2011 in association with the Montreal General Hospital, in addition to having organized the inaugural edition of the Captain's Golf Tournament last August to benefit both his Foundation and the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation.
Gallagher, Petry, Pacioretty, and the rest of their teammates know that their actions have an important impact on their community. The passion shared by their fan base gives the Canadiens the power to make a difference, and that's why they want to use it for good, in order to encourage people in their adopted NHL city as well as in their hometowns to make the world a better place.
Along the same lines, for the past several years Carey Price has been a First Nations, Metis and Inuit ambassador for Breakfast Club of Canada. He often recounts his childhood experience in the native communities of Anahim Lake, BC where he was shocked by the number of youngsters who go hungry in the morning or who don't have access to food for lunch. Price knows first-hand how that can affect a child's behavior at a very early age.
It's a cause close to the netminder's heart and he uses all of his available platforms to motivate and support First Nations kids around the country.
"A lot of people would say that it was highly improbable that I would make it to this point in my life. I made it here because I wasn't discouraged. I worked hard to get here, took advantage of every opportunity that I had, and I would really like to encourage First Nations youth to be leaders in their community. Be proud
of your heritage and don't be discouraged from the improbable," said Price while accepting one of his four major awards at the NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas in June 2015.
Video: Carey Price wins the Vezina Trophy
Every gesture, small or large, can make a difference. The Canadiens take the time to read and analyze every request for help or support that they receive. Regardless of the case presented to them, they try to respond with generosity, by allocating resources they believe will have the most significant impact on the needs of the organization or the individual, while still respecting the mission and community objectives they stand by.
"We're privileged to be able to count on all the members of the greater Canadiens family, on donors and general partners, who accompany us and have the well-being of the community at heart. We can't cure or eradicate sickness, but we can definitely do things to soothe the pain and offer up a bit of relief and some
magic for those who are suffering," concluded Paquette. "We can encourage the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits that will have an impact in terms of the prevention of diseases and better health. We'd always like to offer the moon, but we're making sure to offer up the stars that will hopefully light up the daily lives of children and their families."