It's difficult to believe, yet the last time Le Club de hockey Canadien visited St. Louis was in March, 2011, almost three years ago. The Blues won 4-1 behind the stellar play of Andy McDonald, who had a goal and two assists. Jaroslav Halak, making his first appearance in a St. Louis uniform against his former team, was awarded the first star of the game with 27 saves. Halak was also the first star in January, 2012, when he made a triumphant return to Montreal, shutting the Canadiens out 3-0 with 19 saves. Earlier this season, Halak again defeated the Canadiens in Montreal, 3-2 in a shootout, making 25 saves in regulation time (no shots against in overtime) and all three in the skills exhibition.
Founded in 1909 by J. Ambrose O'Brien, a Canadian silver mine owner and industrialist, the Montreal Canadiens are the longest continuously operating professional hockey club in the world and the only existing NHL franchise to predate the founding of the league in 1917. The Habs, a nickname derived from a name for the original inhabitants of the Mount Royal area, Les Habitants, have won the most Stanley Cup championships (23) in the history of the NHL, not including one Cup championship in 1916 before the NHL was formed.
Originally the Canadiens were members of the National Hockey Association, which was started in 1909 to rival the Eastern Canada Hockey Association, legal custodian
of the Stanley Cup. Previously, the ECHA had rejected an application from O'Brien to join that league, so O'Brien and Jimmy Gardner, owner of the Montreal Wanderers, founded the NHA in response. Three other teams from Cobalt (Silver Kings), Renfrew (Creamery Kings) and Haileybury (Comets) (all small cities in Ontario) were members as well. The Canadiens were to be stocked with French players in order to build a rivalry with the Wanderers and capture francophone interest in Montreal. In 1910, a franchise from Ottawa was added, as well as another team in Montreal, dubbed the Shamrocks. A team from Quebec City was added the following year while the Cobalt, Haileybury and Shamrocks franchises folded.
By 1912, O'Brien retired and his team in Renfrew dropped out. However, two teams were added from the Toronto area, the Torontos (later Blueshirts) and Tecumsehs (later Ontarios and then Shamrocks). A new league was formed in western Canada by the Patrick brothers, Frank and Lester, that same year and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association raided NHA teams for players. By 1915, it was agreed that the championship teams of the NHA and PCHA would have exclusive rights to meet in a series for the Stanley Cup, and the Vancouver Millionaires defeated the Ottawa Senators to win the Stanley Cup that year. The following season, the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Portland Rosebuds in five games to win the first Stanley Cup for the franchise. The Canadiens would lose in four games to the Seattle Metropolitans in 1917, the last season before the establishment of today's National Hockey League.
The NHL was founded by the owners of the Canadiens, Wanderers, Senators and Bulldogs, the remaining teams in the NHA, as a legal way to exclude Toronto Blueshirts cantankerous, troublesome Eddie Livingstone from owning a team in the Association. They suspended the NHA's operations and granted themselves franchises in the new league, except for Livingstone, of course. A temporary franchise was also granted to the Toronto Arena Company. The Canadiens would not win another Stanley Cup until 1924 (the first as a member of the NHL), led by their first superstar, Howie Morenz, dubbed the Stratford Streak (HHoF 1945, one of nine original inductees). His number 7 was the first ever retired by the Canadiens organization. In 1926 the team moved to the Montreal Forum, at the corner of Atwater and Ste-Catherine Streets, dubbed "the most storied building in hockey history" by The Sporting News. The Canadiens would call the Forum home for 70 years.
Montreal would win two Cups in the early 1930s, but then declined until the 1940s when the "Punch Line" of Maurice "The Rocket" Richard (HHoF 1961), Toe Blake (HHoF 1966) and center Elmer Lach (HHoF 1966) led the Canadiens to two more Cup championships. From 1953 until 1960, Montreal added six more Stanley Cups, led by new stars Jean Beliveau (HHoF 1972), Doug Harvey (HHoF 1973), Bernie "Boom-Boom" Goeffrion (HHoF 1972), Henri "Pocket Rocket" Richard (HHoF 1979) and goaltender Jacques Plante (HHoF 1978). Plante's number 1, Harvey's number 2, Beliveau's number 4, Geoffrion's number 5, the Rocket's number 9, the Pocket Rocket's and Lach's number 16 are all retired. Ten more championships were added from 1965 to 1979, with a new generation of stars, including Guy Lafleur (HHoF 1988, number 10 retired), Yvan Cournoyer (HHoF 1982, number 12 retired, along with Dickie Moore (HHoF 1974), goaltender Ken Dryden (HHoF 1983, number 29 retired), Serge Savard (HHoF 1986, number 18 retired), Larry Robinson (HHoF 1995, number 19 retired) and Guy Lapointe (HHoF 1993). Montreal also won two Cups in the 1986 and 1993, led by goaltender Patrick Roy (HHoF 2006, number 33 retired). The streak of winning in every decade since 1910 ended as 1993 was the Montreal's last Stanley Cup championship. One oddity is that the Canadiens have never won the Presidents' Trophy, an award for the team with the most points during a single season.
Of the seventeen named Canadiens players above, four played for the Blues after leaving Montreal. Can you name them?