MONTREAL – In honor of their 99th birthday, the Montreal Canadiens gave themselves the perfect gift—Centennial Plaza, a veritable outdoor museum honoring their rich history.
With team owner George Gillett and club president Pierre Boivin leading the way on this historic occasion, the Canadiens cut the ribbon on one of the most important initiatives surrounding the franchise’s ongoing Centennial celebrations.
“It was important to us to remind future generations of the type of sacrifices and achievements our players have accomplished in almost 100 years of history,” said Gillett. “Our goal from the start was to immortalize and honor these great players and legends.”
While Bell Centre regulars were able to get a glimpse of the over 20,000 personalized bricks that help make up the Plaza since construction began in September, the cornerstone of the Habs' shrine was finally unveiled - four majestic statues honoring the greatest players in Canadiens history: Howie Morenz, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur.
“I feel lucky to be in the company of these three great players,” admitted a humbled Lafleur. “When I first started playing hockey, I never would have imagined one day having a statue in my honor in front of the home of the Canadiens. The statue is really impressive. The artist [Marc-Andre Fortier] did a great job.”
Also on hand to admire his new bronze likeness was Beliveau, who was equally as blown away.
“What amazes me is the size of the Plaza, not to mention the size of the statue,” marveled Beliveau. “I think fans will be surprised when they come and see this for themselves. I look forward to coming back on my own one day and taking my time to see all there is to see here.”
Like Beliveau, Canadiens fans will be now be able to visit the site and lose themselves in the team’s great accomplishments by reading up on the 100 Greatest Moments in team history, the Habs’ 15 retired jerseys and of course, the franchise’s road to its league-record 24 Stanley Cups.Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.comRead also:Centennial Plaza unveiled