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Canadiens celebrate Centennial

by Staff
The Montreal Canadiens began the celebration of their centennial season by unveiling their "Ring of Honour" at the Bell Centre prior to their home opener on Wednesday night — then sent the sellout crowd home happy with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Boston Bruins.

Players on the ring include Howie Morenz, Georges Vezina, Aurel Joliat, Newsy Lalonde, Joe Malone, Sprague Cleghorn, Herb Gardiner, Sylvio Mantha, Maurice Richard, Joe Hall, George Hainsworth, Jack Laviolette, Didier Pitre, Albert Siebert, Bill Durnan, Ken Reardon, Toe Blake, Tom Johnson, Bernard Geoffrion, Doug Harvey, Jacques Plante, Lorne Worsley, Frank Mahovlich, Ken Dryden, Jacques Lemaire, Bert Olmstead, Serge Savard, Jacques Laperriere, Buddy O'Connor and Patrick Roy, who will have his No. 33 retired by the team on Nov. 22.

Dick Duff, Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt, Guy Lapointe, Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer, Guy Lafleur and general manager Bob Gainey were on hand for the pre-game festivities prior to the home opener. Emile Bouchard, 88, and 90-year-old Elmer Lach — the two oldest surviving Canadiens — dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff as the team began the home portion of its centennial season.

Bouchard rose from his wheelchair and stood to drop the puck as the team unveiled the Ring on the wall above the last row of seats in the upper bowl. The rink-wide mural features individual headshots and the name and uniform number of the team's 44 players and 10 builders in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

''It's pretty neat,'' current Montreal goaltender Carey Price said. ''It just shows the history behind our hockey club here, and it's a pretty proud moment when you see guys like that come out and they're still showing our colors.''

Montreal native Georges Laraque, who became the 757th player to wear a Canadiens uniform when he dressed for the first time this season after signing as a free agent in the summer, said the atmosphere was electrifying.

"It was unbelievable," he said "You can tell it's going to be special this year and I feel really fortunate.

"This is something no other team could ever say. There's so much history. That's the type of thing that, when you retire, you'll think about and say 'I was part of that.' That's unreal."

The Canadiens then delighted the crowd by rolling to a 3-0 lead on goals by Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu and Maxim Lapierre in a 3:19 span late in the first period.

David Krejci's second-period goal cut the margin to one, and Boston tied it on a pair of third-period goals by Marc Savard. The second, with 47.6 seconds left in regulation, was scored into a wide-open net after Price was caught behind the goal when Michael Ryder's dump-in from took a strange bounce off the right boards and over the back of the net.

But Alex Tanguay scored the lone goal of the shootout following the scoreless overtime, giving the Canadiens their 13th consecutive regular-season win over the Bruins.

Among those pleased to have taken part in the festivities was Boston coach Claude Julien, who formerly held the same position with the Canadiens

"It wasn’t difficult at all to experience the ceremony; on the contrary, it was an honor for us to be here," he said. "It's their 100th season. To be a part of it and to experience and live the ceremony and this evening is truly an honor."

Savard, an Ottawa native, was also thrilled to see the festivities.

"It's really special," he said. "I grew up just down the road in Ottawa and my dad was a huge Habs fan. It was a great ceremony, and it was special to have been a part of it."

The Canadiens have won 23 Stanley Cups as a member of the NHL, but none since 1993. But expectations are high this season after Montreal finished first in the East during the regular season in 2007-08.

"I think the fans will be very happy this winter," said Beliveau, the smooth captain of the 1960s Canadiens and member of the team than ran off five straight Cups in the late 1950s. "They have good balance on the team. They're a little stronger than last year."

The Ring of Honor is one of several events taking place in Montreal honoring the team's 100th season. Following the ceremony for Roy next month, the Canadiens will also host the All-Star Game in January and the 2009 Entry Draft in June.

Also on tap is the release of a DVD of the team's most memorable games, a special set of anniversary trading cards and a Canadiens edition of Monopoly. In addition, the Royal Canadian Mint will issue 10 million one-dollar coins and Canada Post will issue 4 million stamps honoring the anniversary.

Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report.

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