It has been a long 22 years since the Montreal Canadiens hoisted the Stanley Cup. The year was 1993, and the Habs mounted a magical playoff run to capture it for the 24th in Franchise history. It may not be their last ever, but it was the last at the legendary Montreal Forum.
The very first time the Canadiens played at the Forum was all the way back in 1924. When the Jubilee Arena burned down in 1919, the team took up playing on the natural ice surface at the new Mount Royal Arena. Due to some issues getting that ice ready in 1924, they were invited to open their season at what was then the Maroons' home rink.
And so, on this very day in 1924, the Canadiens would take to the ice at the Forum for the first game of many, to play the Toronto St. Pats. Leo Dandurand's championship-defending squad would not disappoint, hammering Toronto 7-1, setting the tone for an eventual 70 year residence, during which time they would win 22 Stanley Cups.
The Canadiens moved permanently to the Forum in 1926, due to the unreliability of the Mount Royal Arena surface. It would thus become the house of legends. It housed two of the greatest dynasties in the history of professional sports; five straight championships from 1956 to 1960, and the 70's teams that won six Stanley Cups during the decade.
It was a building that no team wanted to go to. The fans were fanatical, the Habs were a perennial powerhouse, and opposing teams always stood a better chance of walking out with a loss than a win. The Forum and it's occupants were synonymous with winning, and everyone who visited was well aware of that on their way in.
Alas, Habs hockey simply couldn't stay at the Forum forever. A building constructed in the 1920's was bound to become outdated for the growing NHL, no matter it's history. In 1996, the Canadiens would move to their shiny new home at the Molson (now Bell) Centre.
Adjusted for inflation, the cost for building the Forum would be around $21.5 million today. A stark contrast to the cost of the Bell Centre, which, adjusted for inflation, would cost around $387 million today. They needed a more modern facility, and they went out and got it.
But does the curse of the Forum loom over the Bell Centre?
Do you even believe in curses?
As my fellow EOTP denizen Cara likes to say, I'm a littlestitious. I have certain beliefs, and I stick to them. For example; don't ever say shutout during a game, as long as it is potentially true for your team's goaltender. Little things like this have been a part of me since my playing days, and they've stuck with me now that I am but a spectator.
Curses in the traditional sense are not necessarily something I believe in, but the concept has been around in sports for a long time. Generally, I view the term as referring to a major event that casts a shadow over an organization, and creates an aura around them that they are bound to championship futility. It's not some magical force, but it's there, people talk about it, and maybe it does somehow affect the team. So... maybe I believe in curses a little.
Just as a quick example, think of the Boston Red Sox, and the infamous "Curse of the Bambino." They sold one of the greatest players of all time, and the team seemed doomed to failure for all eternity as a result. It was a cataclysmic event that cast a shadow over the organization for over 80 years. Were they legitimately cursed? I don't know, but I'd bet that when Bill Buckner let that ground ball bounce through his legs in 1986, a lot of their fans felt like it was pretty real.
So is there a "curse of the Forum?"
If you're superstitious, or even just a littlestitious, this is where things start to get weird. Consider the date that construction began on the Bell Centre. They broke ground on June 22, 1993, just under two weeks after the Canadiens won their 24th Stanley Cup. They did continue playing at the Forum until 1996, but the timing of the new construction is just too hard to ignore if you're inclined to say there is a curse
Even worse, during the 1995-96 season - the last at the Forum - something terrible happened. A certain goaltender named Patrick Roy was left in net for too long against the Detroit Red Wings. He would walk over to Ronald Corey's seat at the Forum, and inform him that his services would no longer be available for the Montreal Canadiens. Just over three months later, the team would leave the Forum for good.
Right after winning the Cup, construction begins on the new arena, and the departure from the forum is a foregone conclusion. They then lose to Boston in the Quarterfinals the next year, and fail to qualify for the playoffs altogether the year after that. Moving on, they lose Patrick Roy late in 1995. There's the timing of the new construction, and the events leading up to the move that make even the least superstitious person wonder. It wasn't really one event, but a series of events.
That being said, one could easily make the case that a more accurate description of any curse befalling the Canadiens would be "the curse of Saint Patrick." But if his departure is the fault of the coach that drove him away, then it would be "the curse of Mario Tremblay." In truth, "the curse of over a decade of bad trades, and general mismanagement" is probably a more accurate, if long-winded way to describe the current Stanley Cup drought.
But the ghosts of the Forum linger.
I grew up as a true believer in the ghosts; a fact I'll shamelessly admit. By the time I was old enough to really delve into Canadiens history, they were already in their new home, but it didn't stop me from dreaming. I often wondered about those remnants of legends past, and what effect they could have somehow had on the legendary confines known as the Forum.
Maybe they were as intimidating for opposing teams as the formidable squad in front of them. Maybe they were partly responsible for the aura of invincibility that surrounded the team in the 70's. Maybe they added a little extra curve to Marty McSorley's stick back in 1993. And maybe, just maybe, they've been watching movies, and people bowling at the Forum, while the team skates on the Bell Centre ice. Maybe they're no help to the Canadiens anymore.
Then again, considering the success that this year's team has enjoyed so far, maybe they've finally considered to join us all at the Bell.
Maybe the great Jean Beliveau convinced them to.
A man can dream.