MONTREAL - To celebrate the Centennial birthday of the National Hockey League, Commissioner Gary Bettman; Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson; NHL General Manager David Poile, on behalf of the League's GMs; Hall of Famers Ray Bourque, Yvan Cournoyer, Rod Gilbert, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich and Denis Savard; and representatives from the Government of Canada today dedicated a plaque recognizing The Windsor Hotel/Le Windsor as the birthplace of the League.
"Today, in the presence of so many of our great legends and executives, in the home city of some of our great memories, at this very moment, which no one could have imagined 100 years ago, the National Hockey League proudly joins the Government of Canada in honoring our history and celebrating Le Windsor as the place of our birth on Nov. 26, 1917," Commissioner Bettman said at the dedication ceremony in Le Windsor's Versailles Ballroom.
"Legendary hockey writer Elmer Ferguson, who witnessed it all, described that November Monday in 1917 as 'dreary' and 'cold.' He described the meeting room where our League was founded as 'a plain and simple room, rented for the occasion.'
"In the century that would follow, the dreary cold would be brightened and heated by the passion and fervor of the hockey fans in this wonderful city - and many others. The 'plain and simple room' would lead us to remarkable, transformational venues in places like Vancouver and Florida, here in Montreal and Los Angeles, and even Las Vegas. It would take us to places like Stockholm and Shanghai, London and Beijing.
"As we celebrate our first 100 years and look forward to launching our second century, we will never forget that it all began right here. This is the heartland of our history. We stand just a few blocks from Victoria Skating Rink - where the first indoor hockey game under organized rules was played on March 3, 1875. This is where Lord Stanley saw his first hockey game at the Montreal Winter Carnival on Feb. 4, 1889.
Video: NHL, Canada gov't honor League's birth at Le Windsor
"We stand just a few blocks from McGill University, which boasts such alumni as James Creighton, who defined the rules used in that first organized indoor game - and also played in it. Another McGill alum, Mike Babcock, tomorrow night will coach the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre, also just a few blocks from here.
"We're barely a mile from site of the Forum, an historic site for virtually every one of the legends with us today. On April 9, 1964, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals, Dave Keon scored all three goals in the 3-1 Toronto victory that would send the Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup Final against Detroit. On Feb. 24, 1968, Rod Gilbert took 16 shots on the Montreal net and scored four goals as the New York Rangers recorded a 6-1 triumph at the Forum. The only player to record more shots on goal in a regular-season game also is with us today: Ray Bourque, who has a nearby arena named for him in his native St. Laurent, Que., took 19 shots against Quebec's Ron Tugnutt in Boston on March 21, 1991. At the Forum on March 21, 1973, Frank Mahovlich scored his 500th career goal in a 3-2 victory over Vancouver. The only four players to beat him to 500? Rocket Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Jean Beliveau. On New Year's Eve, 1975, at the Forum, Yvan Cournoyer scored the 3-1 goal in one of the most epic games in NHL history - the Canadiens' 3-3 tie against the vaunted 'Red Army.' And on June 9, 1993, when it was my privilege to present the Stanley Cup for the first time - to Canadiens captain Guy Carbonneau - the person he handed it to, and the first person to actually lift the Cup at the Forum that night, was Denis Savard.
"We're honored these legends could join us today. We're so pleased to stand mere blocks from the Queen Elizabeth Hotel - home in 1963 to the first NHL Draft. And across the park from us is the Sun-Life Building, home to our League's offices for so many years.
"When you come to this historic hockey city, you feel the heartbeat of our League, the pulse of our game. You see the sweaters, you hear the debates in two languages - and at every Canadiens home game, you hear the whistles of more than 20,000 referees.
"The NHL was born here and it will live here forever. And now, with the dedication of this plaque, Le Windsor's designation as sacred hockey ground is official and eternal. We thank our forebears and we celebrate all who have contributed to the growth of our League - and our game.
"Most important, we are grateful to our fans, the lifeblood of our growth for a century."
Commissioned by Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada, the plaque inscription reads:
The National Hockey League
Founded here in November 1917, the NHL holds a special place in Canadians' hearts. After expanding to the United States in 1924 and gaining exclusive access to the prestigious Stanley Cup in 1927, it became the world's predominant hockey league, growing in popularity through radio and television broadcasts and captivating generations of fans with the speed and skill of the game. The NHL's top players have been recognized as national icons and international superstars, while its champion teams have set high standards of excellence, inspiring people of all ages to participate in and enjoy Canada's national winter sport.
La Ligue Nationale De Hockey
Fondée ici en novembre 1917, la LNH est au cœur de l'esprit canadien. Après son expansion aux États-Unis en 1924 et l'obtention de l'exclusivité à la Coupe Stanley en 1927, elle devient la principale ligue de hockey au monde et gagne en popularité grâce à son jeu rapide et habile. Les affrontements sont radiodiffusés, puis télédiffusés, au grand bonheur de générations de partisans. Les meilleurs joueurs deviennent des idoles nationales et des vedettes internationales, tandis que les équipes championnes établissent de hautes normes d'excellence et encouragent des gens de tout âge à participer au sport d'hiver national du Canada.