To you from failing hands we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote those words in 1915 as a Canadian soldier in the Great War. His poem “In Flanders Fields” was written one year before le Club de Hockey Canadien celebrated its first of 24 championships and was adopted by the club to serve as the official motto – a reminder to each player of the fraternity and glory that his sweater symbolizes. Painted first at the top of the Canadiens dressing room in the old Forum, one is humbled at the thought of the legends who have looked upon those words in a quiet moment of reflection before acheiving their ultimate goal.
It is a testimant to the glory of the organization that 44 former members are also members of the Hall of Fame. Names like Plante, Richard, Lafleur, Beliveau, Morenz and Vezina are legend to the sport. Tonight is the time to pay tribute and respect to those unfailing hands who held the torch up to incredible heights. Tonight we will honour the unquestionable glory that the city of Montreal has enjoyed over the past century – it’s heart and soul displayed nightly on a gleaming sheet of ice. The Canadiens are so much more than a hockey team to its fans. Outsiders like to say that hockey is religion here. I prefer to say it is everything.
In the midst of a season in which the Canadiens are struggling it is hard not to be disapointed in the centennial celebration that we have endured for the past year. With all of the lofty acheivements of the past, it is incredibly frustrating to watch our Canadiens struggle in a parity driven NHL. The mood over the course of the past 365 days has been largely negative, and while the struggles have taken their toll on the fans and players there is one lesson that I believe we should all take from this day. As fans of the first franchise in NHL history to embark on its second century of competition, we should be well aware that this franchise has struggled in the past. We should understand that while we impatiently await our next turn with the Stanley Cup, that this period of turmoil too will pass. Fans of the Montreal Canadiens possess the luxury of a long memory. Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game against our most bitter rival, we know that some day we will again watch our players carry Lord Stanley’s prize on rue Ste. Catherine as they have in the past. And while we wait for that opportunity we should continue to celebrate this team and the passion we feel for this game as its fans, so that the future generation of Habs fans can continue to hold the torch high.