A Canadiens Centennial Christmas

 
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As the Canadiens have just recently celebrated their 100th anniversary, no doubt that many Habs fans have wishes for a "centennial" Christmas.

There have been books published, stamps and coins issued and many varieties of clothing made available stamped with two different centennial logos, but surely one of the more interesting items that probably find its way under many Christmas trees is the anniversary DVD box set called 100 Years of the Montreal Canadiens which was released November 17th.

If you’re like me, you couldn’t wait for Christmas and bought the set already.

Here is my appreciation of this official Canadiens centennial documentary. If you want to keep the element of surprise, you can stop reading now but I have tried to not give everything away.

As many of you may know already, let’s start by mentionning there is a choice to be made between a regular 4 DVD set and or a special collector’s edition 5 DVD set along with other perks, such as a piece of game-used item (jersey, stick or net) from the 100th season, a pack of centennial edition hockey cards, a centennial frameable picture and the centennial pin. The collector's edition comes in a big wooden box that I found impressive at first sight but is not very handy for storage as it won’t fit in most bookcases.

Is it worth buying the more expensive collector’s edition rather than the regular edition? If you are interested in the extras, sure. If not…

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Now about the DVD contents. Produced in both French and English, the set is advertised as having 6 hours of original production documenting the history of one of the game’s most storied franchise.

The main feature of the DVD set is the documentary called, "100 Years of Glory" which seems to be inspired by hockey historian D’Arcy Jenish's book of the same name (of which a new '09 updated version has been published earlier this year). Jenish himself is part of the documentary as he relates the team’s foundation and early days.

Narrated in English by Oscar-nominated actor and longtime Canadiens fan Viggo Mortensen, the documentary features interviews with a great number of individuals who bring the team’s history to life with facts, recollections, revelations and anecdotes. All of it is intertwined with archival footage and photographs.

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The overview of the team’s history is very good. It chronicles its humble beginnings, the story of the star players through the years, the Stanley Cups triumphs, the dynasties as well as the more difficult, if not turbulent, times.

Aside from Jenish, the team’s early days are related by another historian, Gerry Rochon, and descendants of such as Jim O’Brien, nephew of first owner Ambrose O’Brien and Howie Morenz Jr., who gives an emotional testimonial on the circumstances of his famous father’s death. Other long-time observers of the team include Dick Irvin Jr., Richard Garneau and Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated.

As for the participation of former and actual members of the Canadiens organization, the main and secondary documentaries are filled with clips of players, management members, coaches, owners and even an usher. The impressive list includes includes Elmer Lach, Bob Fillion, Frank Selke Jr., Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, Frank and Pete Mahovlich, Eddy Palchak, Guy Lapointe, Serge Savard, Pierre Bouchard, Réjean Houle, Guy Lafleur, Murray Wilson, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey, Mark Napier, Guy Carbonneau, Patrick Roy, Stéphane Richer, Kirk Muller, Saku Koivu, Scotty Bowman, Jean Perron, Jacques Demers, George Gillett, Pierre Boivin. The participants also include former rivals such as Stan Mikita, Glen Hall, Johnny Bower, Ted Lindsay, Ron Ellis and articulate former Bruin Gary Galley.Habs_classic_54626_medium

The information is up to date with this year’s edition of the club since it includes clips from Jacques Martin and new owner Geoff Molson. The documentary ends with testimonials on the importance of this famous franchise to fans everywhere and to the game of hockey itself.

I found it a bit deplorable that there isn’t a single clip from a player from this season’s edition in the main documentary. I think Carey Price would have been an obvious choice. But there is a clip from a prospect who has yet to play a game with the Canadiens. If you haven’t watched the documentary, I won’t spoil your surprise.

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The other discs in the set are thematic and are narrated by longtime broadcaster Dick Irvin Jr. Here is a sample of what you’ll find:

Disc 2 of the set presents vignettes on each of the 24 Stanley Cup championships and the great player performances that led to them. The vignettes present a myriad of interesting facts about each Cup win. There are some interviews, specially related to the latter Ccup wins but I found the presentation lacked some of the emotion involved in all those Cup wins.

Disc 3 explores Dynasties and Rivalries. The great dynasties of the 50’s, 60’ and 70’s in mini-documentaries that include many interviews with former players, observers and rivals. Then, there is a look at five of the Canadiens greatest rivalries, the Leafs, the Red Wings, the Bruins, the Flyers and the Nordiques. I thought the Black Hawks could have been included since they played the Canadiens in three cup finals from 65 to 73, including two that went seven games.

Disc 4 is titled The Immortals and presents vignettes of the fifteen great (not including Lach and Bouchard) Canadiens players who have had their jerseys retired. I thought it would have been nice to include available footage of the some jersey retirement ceremonies.

The bonus disc in the limited edition set includes a tribute to the Montreal Forum (the Mecca of Hockey), untold stories and the pictures of the Upper Deck special Legends cards of the 54 Canadiens players, owners, managers and coaches who have been enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

All in all, the DVD box set is an entertaining way to relive Canadiens history and it is certainly worth having for any Canadiens fan.

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