I’ve missed homework.
No, seriously. I’ve missed homework.
So, a few weeks ago I asked a friend for a homework assignment. For something based on hockey.
He said, “Original Six.”
“What about them? Just do a paper on the original six?”
I’m not doing exactly what he wanted, because, well, I do things how I want to, and there is nobody here to stop me. But, it seems only fitting that as hockey season is upon us, we take a look at where it all began. We’ll go one team per blog post, so it won’t be too overwhelming for you, or me. Comments are more than welcome, and hey, correct me if I’m wrong because research on the web leads to one place and that’s usually Wikipedia. What can I say? I’m a product of my generation and it’s awful, but at least I’m honest.
So, without further ado: The Original Six.
For those that don’t know, the Original Six is the term given to the first six professional hockey teams that would make up the National Hockey League for the 25 seasons between 1942 and 1967 when the NHL expanded. There were teams that came and went before 1942 that are not considered the original six, and only 2 teams in the Original Six were actually a part of the inaugural season of 1917. However, every team in the Original Six predates the 24 teams by at least 40 years.
First on the ice is the Montreal Canadiens. Founded in 1909 by J. Ambrose O’Brien, the team began as the symbol of the francophone community in Montreal and intended to have francophone players, managers and ownership, where possible. Today, more than half of the players on the roster are Canadian. Thus inspiring the nickname, “Les Habitants,” a term which refers to the settlers and inhabitants of Quebec.
Though the Canadiens have gone on to win more Stanley Cups than any other franchise, they were not immediately successful. In their first season they claimed last place. In 1916, the seventh season of the NHA (National Hockey Association) the Canadiens defeated the Portland Rosebuds and claimed their first Stanley Cup. In 1917, the Canadiens and four other teams from the NHA joined to form the NHL. In the 1923-24 season they won their first NHL Stanley cup Championship led by Howie Morenz, one of the original 12 inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Those ‘Habitants’ are always trying to keep it in the family. For years, the teams mascots were the children of players or management. To the children’s dismay, in 2005 the Canadiens acquired their first costumed mascot, Youppi (French for ‘Yippee!’ or ‘Hooray!’), a large orange, fuzzy creature that was once the mascot for the Montreal Expos Baseball team until they moved to Washington. Though I can’t tell you why he is so furry and orange, I can tell you that he was reportedly worth six figures. It’s a small price to pay for family.
Atop the orange fuzz is the Canadiens jersey. Red, blue and white don’t really flatter his fiery mane, but the team colors haven’t changed in almost 100 years, so I think he may just need a dye job. In fact the colors are so deeply rooted in French-Canadien culture than an excerpt from the short story, “The Hockey Sweater” by Roch Carrier, describing the influence of the Canadiens and their jerseys in 1940s rural Montreal was printed on the 2002 issue of the Canadien five dollar bill.
The logo, a large red C with a blue H in the center, coupled with an American who got his wires crossed, gained the Canadiens a nickname in America – the Habs. The ‘H’ in the center of the logo stands for hockey, but when Tex Rickard, owner of Madison Square Garden, told a reporter in 1924 that the H stood for “Habitants” and refered to the team as ‘the Habs’ the name stuck and has been usedin ‘cheering’ ever since.
Today the Canadiens play at the Bell Centre, also known as the Molson Centre, but for seven decades they played at the Montreal Forum now considered a shrine to hockey fans. So if you care to travel up ‘dar to C’eh-n’eh-d’eh to see them play, I’ll leave you with their motto, taken from a poem by John McCrae written the year before they won their first Stanley Cup.
« Nos bras meurtris vous tendent le flambeau, à vous toujours de le porter bien haut. »
To you from failing hands we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high.