Countdown to the Centennial begins
The Canadiens' official Centennial logo -- a stylized "100" in the team's colors -- was unveiled for the first time to the public on Monday afternoon.
MONTREAL - Exactly four years, two months, and a day ahead of the 100-year anniversary of their founding as a franchise, the Canadiens unveiled a series of ambitious initiatives tied to their 2009 Centennial.
At a corporate luncheon for suite holders and partners held Monday afternoon at the Bell Centre, team President Pierre Boivin laid out several bold plans and projects that will carry the team through its Dec. 4, 2009 anniversary.
Heading the list was the confirmation that over the next four seasons the team will retire a series of jerseys, including three in 2005-06. The names of the honorees for the upcoming year will be announced at an Oct. 15 game between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs, on a "Legends Night" that will pay homage to the seven men whose numbers have already been raised to the Bell Centre rafters.
That select group is limited to Howie Morenz (No. 7 - retired Nov. 2, 1937), Maurice Richard (No. 9 - retired Oct. 6, 1960), Jean Beliveau (No. 4 - retired Oct. 9, 1971), Henri Richard (No. 16 - retired Dec. 10, 1975), Guy Lafleur (No. 10 - retired Feb. 16, 1985), Doug Harvey (No. 2 - retired Oct. 26, 1985), and Jacques Plante (No. 1 - retired Oct. 7, 1995).
"No jersey has yet been retired in this arena," said Boivin of the Bell Centre, the Canadiens' home since March 1996. "Yet by the time we reach our centennial, we will have retired the jersey of every player who deserves that honor."
The total number of jerseys to be retired in the coming years was not revealed.
Should things fall into place as the Canadiens would hope, the 2009 calendar year will be a busy one. The team announced that not only has it bid for the 2009 World Junior Championships - beginning in late December, 2008, and running through early January, 2009 - but that it is also expecting a decision shortly from the NHL on a bid it made last November to host both the 2009 All-Star Game and 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Vancouver, the host city for the WJC in 2006, beat out 10 other Canadian cities to land its bid. Canada's next turn to host the WJC will be in 2009, and Hockey Canada has not yet announced the locales in the running for that privilege.
While the NHL has canceled the 2006 All-Star Game to allow players to compete in the Olympics, Dallas is set to host the event in 2007 and Atlanta - the city that would have hosted it in 2005 - is expected to be a leading candidate to host it in 2008. That would likely leave Phoenix - the original host city for a would-be All-Star Game in 2006 - as Montreal's primary competition for 2009.
Montreal last hosted the All-Star Game in 1993. It last hosted the entry draft in 1992.
In addition to the jersey retirements and event bids, the Canadiens also unveiled plans to create an outdoor "Legends Plaza" at the Bell Centre that will offer both an enhanced sense of arrival and a permanent tribute to some of the team's greatest players.
"The Plaza will be built brick-by-brick with the help of our fans, who will register their names in the construction as testimony of their attachment to the Canadiens," Boivin hinted. "It will become a unique place to remember our heroes, and a source of inspiration for both our players and generations to come."
For the 23 members of the 2005-06 Montreal roster who attended the luncheon, the news of the day only helped fuel an already-optimistic outlook for the coming months and years. The smiling players, dapper in their suits and ties, lingered at tables and mingled with various guests, posing for pictures and signing autographs.
The Canadiens, the NHL's oldest and most storied franchise, were founded on Dec. 4, 1909, during a meeting of the National Hockey Association in Room 129 of the Windsor Hotel in downtown Montreal.
Their legacy would appear destined to grow even greater in the years ahead.
J.S. Trzcienski is the Site Manager for canadiens.com.