Canadiens President Pierre Boivin (left), Ray Lalonde, VP Marketing & Sales, Geoff Molson, Molson CEO Eric Molson, Andrew Molson, Foster Gillett and team owner George Gillett unveil Builder's Row.
MONTREAL - As part of the festivities leading up to the team's Centennial to be celebrated on December 4, 2009, the Montreal Canadiens launched Thursday "Builders Row" by enshrining seven of the most renowned personalities in team history: Messrs. John Ambrose O'Brien, William Northey, Léo Dandurand, Jos Cattarinich and Louis Létourneau, three men nicknamed "The Three Muskeeteers", as well as Messrs. Donat Raymond and Senator Hartland de Montarville Molson.
The purpose of this initiative is to honor personalities, whose contribution and efforts off the ice helped the Montreal Canadiens become the winningest organization in National Hockey League history. Laid out behind the seats of sections 104 through 107 of the Bell Centre, Builders Row will immortalize more of the team's greatest names through the next two seasons.
John Ambrose O'Brien
Owner of the Montreal Canadiens from 1909 to 1910
Growing up in a Renfrew family whose fortune had been made in natural resources, John Ambrose O'Brien was born on May 27, 1885 and played hockey through the senior level before enrolling at the University of Toronto.
On December 2, 1909, O'Brien and Jimmy Gardiner, the manager of the Wanderers, met in Montreal and founded the seven-team National Hockey Association. Aware of the need to have a French team in the city to create a rivalry with the predominantly English Shamrocks and Wanderers, O'Brien founded the Canadiens on December 4, 1909, in a room at the Windsor Hotel.
The club, whose name was suggested by Gardiner, would feature a large contingent of French Canadian players and be managed in its first season by Jos Cattarinich and Jack Laviolette.
At the close of the 1909-10 season, O'Brien sold the Canadiens to George "Kendall" Kennedy, who would proceed to re-christen the team the Club Aéthltique Canadien, a name it would retain until 1917. O'Brien was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962. He died on April 25, 1968.
Special Advisor of the Montreal Canadiens from 1912 to 1946
Born on April 29, 1872 in Leeds Village, Quebec, William Northey grew up in Lennoxville, where he played hockey and a variety of sports before moving to Montreal in 1893. In 1897 he oversaw the construction of Westmount Arena, the first facility in the world built specifically for hockey. The experience would serve him well as 25 years later he would go on to supervise the construction of hockey's most legendary shrine, the Montreal Forum.
It was through his suggestion that the sport saw the adoption of netting and a crossbar on goals, and by the turn of the century he had convinced teams to abandon the two-half format and instead implement three periods in games. In 1911, his recommendations led to the elimination of the rover position and to the birth of the game as we know it today, with five skaters and one goaltender per side.
A meeting between Northey and Donat Raymond changed the course of Montreal hockey history in 1920. Together they founded the Canadian Arena Company and began the construction of the Forum.
With the help of James Strachan, they soon inaugurated the Maroons, who would share the Forum ice with the Canadiens.
Northey would remain associated with both the Maroons and the Forum until 1934; later, in 1940, he was named Vice-President of the Canadiens following Senator Raymond's acquisition of the club.
Named an honorary president of the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 1944, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947. He passed away on April 9, 1963.
Léo Dandurand, Jos Cattarinich and Louis Létourneau
Owners of the Montreal Canadiens from 1921 to 1935
For close to 30 years, the triumvirate of Léo Dandurand, Jos Cattarinich and Louis Létourneau helped shape the course of sports history in Montreal. Businessmen and sportsmen alike, their many achievements were crowned by their purchase of the Canadiens in 1921. Nicknamed "The Three Musketeers", the trio led the team to three Stanley Cups, in 1924, 1930 and 1931.
Born on July 9, 1889, Dandurand was 16 when his family moved from Bourbonnais, Illinois, to Montreal. In 1913, he developed an interest in horse racing; several years later, with Cattarinich and Létourneau, he would be the co-owner of a dozen hippodromes throughout North America, chief among them Blue Bonnets and Connaught Park. He also helped launch the CFL's Montreal Alouettes and was a director of baseball's minor-league Montreal Royals. Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963, Léo Dandurand died on June 26, 1964.
Cattarinich was Dandurand's best friend and right-hand man, and had served as the Canadiens' goaltender in 1910 before ceding his position to Georges Vézina. Originally a brakeman for Canadian Pacific, Cattarinich had met Dandurand in 1909 when he was part of the Montreal Lacrosse Club. The two would enjoy a long and prosperous partnership, working together in the tobacco and horse racing industries before achieving their greatest successes as owners of the Canadiens.
Létourneau, for his part, was a savvy businessman and one of the first French Canadians to actively promote boxing, wrestling, and racing. A fishmonger at Bonsecours Market, a hotel manager, and owner of the Club St. Louis, Létourneau had a reputation as an outstanding card player and preferred to leave the limelight to his partners Dandurand and Cattarinich. He sold his shares in the Canadiens to the latter duo in 1931.
President of the Montreal Canadiens from 1940 to 1957
Born on January 3, 1880 in the rural village of Saint-Stanislas de Kostka, Quebec, Donat Raymond arrived in Montreal in the early 1900s and quickly established an admirable reputation within the business community.
Flush with his accomplishments in the financial sector, Raymond sought out new challenges and he would eventually turn to the world of sports in general and hockey in particular. In 1920, Raymond's good friend William Northey proposed the founding of an English professional hockey team in Montreal to compete with the predominantly French Canadiens. Raymond bought into the idea, and with the support of local financier Edward Beatty, the president of Canadian Pacific, submitted a bid to at once establish the NHL's Maroons and construct the Montreal Forum. In 1924, he founded the Canadian Arena Company, the group that would operate both of the latter.
In the years following the Great Depression, the devastated economy in Montreal proved simply too fragile to support a pair of NHL franchises. Feeling the financial pinch, Leo Dandurand and his partners sold the Canadiens to the Canadian Arena Company; two years later, the Maroons folded and left Raymond in place as the official owner of the bleu-blanc-rouge.
The Canadiens thrived under Raymond's watch and found stability and success with head coach Dick Irvin and superstar Maurice Richard, eventually restoring sold-out status to the Forum. During the 17 seasons with Raymond as owner, the Canadiens brought home the Stanley Cup four times and the Forum underwent one significant renovation, in 1949. For his countless contributions to the sport, Raymond was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958. He died on June 5, 1963.
Senator Hartland de Montarville Molson
Owner of the Montreal Canadiens from 1957 to 1964
Hartland de Montarville Molson was born in Montreal on May 29, 1907 and was taken with hockey from a young age. Throughout his studies, he made his mark on the ice, going so far as to participate in the Memorial Cup in 1926. During an internship at a financial institution in Paris, he played on a team with Clarence Campbell, who would go on to become president of the NHL in 1946.
Soon after becoming a chartered accountant in 1933, Molson founded and oversaw the Dominion Skyways airline. He then embarked on a brilliant military career, surviving a plane crash during the Battle of Britain before returning home to work for Molson Breweries. He ascended through the ranks to become president of the company, a position he held for 13 years.
In 1955, Molson became the independent senator of Quebec's Alma District, serving as a chairman on multiple economic committees. During that time, he was also named president of the Canadian Arena Company, the organization founded by his father, the Colonel Herbert Molson, among others. On September 24, 1957, Molson and his brother Thomas officially purchased the Canadiens from Senator Donat Raymond. As team owner, until 1964, and then as Chairman of the Board, until 1968, Mr. Molson saw the Canadiens win no fewer than six Stanley Cups.
Senator Molson was a key figure in helping shape League policy, and took pride in improving player-owner relations while a member of the NHL Finance Committee. On a local level, he oversaw the modernization of the Forum, expanding it to become the largest arena in the League.
His contributions earned him a variety of honorary degrees, and he was named an Officer in the Order of Canada in 1995. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame - a facility he supported from its beginnings - in 1973. He died on September 28, 2002.