“Mesdames et messieurs, accueillons NOS CANADIENS!”
If you’ve ever been to a Montreal Canadiens game, or watched one on TV, you’ve heard the voice of Michel Lacroix enthusiastically announcing the arrival of the Canadiens onto the ice with the goosebump-inducing introduction.
He exuberantly names players who scored goals for the home team and will professionally announce goals scored by the away team with just enough of a hint of disdain to remind them that they shouldn’t get comfortable. When a former fan favourite was making a return in enemy colours, Lacroix would certainly give him a nod.
For several generations of Canadiens fans, he’s the only voice they have ever heard in association with the team.
The 2018-19 season marks the 25th for Lacroix as the voice of the Canadiens, starting with the 1993-94 season when he officially took over the role. His appointment was announced by the Canadiens on August 19, 1993, the same day the team announced Donald Beauchamp as head of media relations. Beauchamp retired just last year having shaped the organization’s relationship with the press from the end of the Serge Savard era right through to Marc Bergevin’s tenure.
The two roles filled by Lacroix and Beauchamp had both been held by the legendary Claude Mouton, starting in 1969 as the house announcer for the Canadiens (and the Montreal Expos), and then becoming increasingly more involved in the media side, earning the title of Director of Public Relations in 1973.
Lacroix’s first game as a house announcer was a tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs in November, 1977, when a brawl broke out in the first period. It was Mouton who arranged the audition for Lacroix, who had previously been the official spokesman of the 1976 Montreal Winter Olympics, among other accomplishments in a highly decorated media career. In 2017, Lacroix marked the 40th anniversary of that first game.
A year later, at the start of the 1978-79 season, Canadiens Managing Director Irving Grundman decided that Mouton needed to focus more on the media relations side of his role during the games, and moved him out of the announcers box to work behind the scenes. Claude Brière, Jean-Paul Chartrand, and Lacroix rotated duties as the voice of the Forum that season. Marcel Bélanger took over the house announcer role full-time after that for a few years, and remained as emergency fill-in once Mouton had reclaimed the position.
Mouton passed away in March of 1993, and Bélanger returned to the role for the remainder of the season, fortunate enough to be the voice of the Canadiens’ 1993 Stanley Cup run. Bélanger also worked the infamous St. Valentine’s Day game between the Canadiens and the rival Quebec Nordiques in 1984, when bad blood boiled over into an out-of-control brawl.
Lacroix can boast some of his own memorable moments as house announcer, including the closing of the Montreal Forum and the opening of the Molson Centre, Saku Koivu’s return from cancer, the Centennial celebration, the jersey retirements of numerous legendary players, and the eulogy of Jean Béliveau to a silent Bell Centre audience, tearfully hanging on to his every word.
His voice can rouse fans, inspire them, and even drive them into a frenzy as they cheer wildly over Lacroix’s perfect bilingual declarations, with rising tone and urgent inflections resonating with the emotions of fervent and casual fans alike.
We here at Eyes On The Prize wish him continued success and look forward, every time, to hearing those magic words.