Eyes On A Dynasty - Day 2: The Canadiens in the pre-Television Era


Day 2 of the Eyes On A Dynasty series showcases the earliest known footage on the Montreal Canadiens. Captured in the 1920's and 1930's are film provided by Habs' owner Leo Dandurand, bristling scenes of greats Howie Morenz and Aurele Joliat, an action sequence from a motion picture filmed at Madison Square Garden, and flashback clips on the tragic death of Morenz at age 34.

Back sometime around 1925, the Canadiens held an outdoor practice at Parc Jeanne Mance, just off Avenue de l' Esplenade and Mount Royal. The photo above was taken from that event, and you can see that it was sparsely attended. The photo is a still from a film made by someone, and the clip later came into the hands of Canadiens manager Leo Dandurand, who had it aired on television in the 1950's. Whoever filmed it for posterity did hockey history a favor, as it is surely the oldest moving pictures of the Canadiens on record.

The 1924 Leo Dandurand film

The clip, unfortunately, has no exact known date. Or I should say, we are unfortunately unable to track it. It came to me courtesy of Francis' collection, and the two of us tried desperatly when we first posted this clip to ascertain its exact time and origin to no avail. Originally, we thought that It is either from the 1924-25 season or the following campaign. Going strictly by the Habs' logo with the white "C", it can de determined that it was in fact during the 1923-24 season, as in the campaign prior the Canadiens wore sweaters with a red "C" and for 1924-25, the CH logo was replaced by a globe, signifying the team were world champions after their second Stanley Cup win.


Team photos, clockwise from top left: 1922-23, 1923-24, 1925-26, 1924-25.

As can be seen, the setting is most definitely in the mid winter, as snowbanks alongside the rink are quite high. What confuses most are the players said (and seen) to be included in the clip. One shot shows Leo Dandurand laughing it up with Sprague Cleghorn, whom he traded to Boston on November 10, 1925.

The clip mentions Georges Vezina in goal, but the goaltender wearing number 11 is Alphonse "Frenchy" Lacroix. Vezina faces the camera in the clip. Lacroix was part of the club for practice purposes during the 1924-25 campaign, but was not signed until November 8, 1925, two days prior to the trading of Cleghorn. As the clip is spliced, it is difficult to ascertain if they are all of one piece or not.

The narrator is Quebec television personality Zotique L' Esperance, and at one point he notes that one of the defenseman is Albert Leduc, who joined the team for the 1925-26 season.


The second part of the clip features Morenz and the Canadiens at the opening game at Madison Square Garden on December 15, 1925. In the clip, Howie was wearing the unfamiliar number 6 he wore for his second NHL season only.

Here is a translation of what is being said in the clip.

We would also like to salute former players, who have contributed to implanting and developing the game of hockey.

Mister Leo Dandurand, our popular sportsman, has unearthed old film clips for us, from 1925 to 1930, and we are happy to show them to you.

Let's have a look at a practice of the Canadiens hockey club at Parc Jeanne Mance in 1925.

Here is George Vezina in goal, the most famous of goaltenders who passed away only months later.

Sylvio Mantha (2) and Albert Leduc (8) hold off the thrusts of Morenz (7), Joliat (4) and Boucher (5).

Leo Dandurand chats with Sprague Cleghorn (2).

Howie Morenz (7) facing off, at the opening game in Madison Square Garden history in 1925. The Canadiens beat the New York Americans 3-1, and Albert Leduc scored the first goal. Morenz was then wearing the number 6, instead of the number 7 he would make famous in the future. There's nothing slow in this game!

The art of filming hockey games in this era, was just beginning.

And so it was!

The 1930's Morenz and Joliat clip

Francis did some great work here, splicing together scenes of Howie Morenz and Aurele Joliat playing together in the nineteen-twenties and thirties. The french voice-over narration are chopped up in the 51 second clip, and the only verifiable voice is that of Joliat.

The translation of commentary is as follows:

As we've noted before, Morenz and Joliat were such rapid skaters, that they probably caused the league to modify the rules, adding the red line.

Morenz was a player I'd only seen play, but it was as thought I knew him much better, as he was all that was talked about...

Joliat: Yes I played with Morenz, but never really with him. I was always either in front of him, skating up ice, (or trying to catch up). He was lightning on the ice. Nobody could follow him.

About Joliat: He wore a little baseball cap on his head....and I don't think you liked it when opponents tried to knock it off.

Scene from Manhattan Melodrama

All Habs' fans are well aware that Yvan "Roadrunner" Cournoyer and Guy "The Flower" Lafleur were lightning quick on skates. Fans aquainted with these and other Canadiens' greats have seen these legends fly across the ice numerous times and we all have our own favorite highlight reel goals from years gone by.

Unfortunately, video clips of the Canadiens first half century aren't aplenty, so you can imagine my delight when a reader sent in a link to a You Tube clip featuring the great Howie Morenz dashing across the frozen surface of Madison Square Garden in 1934. The You Tube clip has since been removed for copyright infringement, but fortunately I made an edited copy of the Morenz scene.


The clip is from the movie "Manhattan Melodrama" featuring Clark Cable, and in different scenes the characters in the movie are spotted in sporting settings such as a racetrack and at this game involving the Rangers and the Habs at MSG. The two quick clips come within a 20 second span and are brief, but they capture the essense of the player Morenz was 10 years or so into his Canadiens' career.

Testimony to the type of player Howie was, have a look at his speed on the back check!

The first part of the clip shows Howie carrying the puck up the ice, dashing and muscling his way past the Rangers' players, when defenseman Ching Johnson almost flattens him and he goes for a good slide.

This, evidentally, is what had to be done to stop the Stratford Streak!

In the second part of the video, you see Morenz blazing back into the Canadien's zone on the backcheck. He surpasses pretty much every player in his path to catch the puck carrier, who he then neatly pokes the puck from. The man had wheels!

I'm thankful to have been sent the clip. It's precious stuff! I've seen Guy and Yvan, and now I can say that I've also briefly caught a glimpse of Howie.

Man was Morenz fast! A blur, really.

The Death of Howie Morenz

In an era before television, only a lucky few hockey fans ever got to see Howie Morenz play. To hear his contemporaries tell it, the Canadiens forward played the game with a flair and skill perhaps only matched by Maurice Richard. But in January 1937 it all came to an end with a vicious leg injury that broke the bone in four places. Seven weeks later, on March 8, 1937, Canadiens fans were devastated to hear Morenz was dead. In this retrospective CBC-TV clip, mourners line up around the block to pay their respects.

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