A home opener has a special feel when the season for your team is looking bright. So, we can imagine the atmosphere that would have reigned this evening at the Bell Center, if you had been able to welcome the Canadiens players during the pre-game presentations.
Too bad you won’t be able to be there, you haven’t been spoiled for the last few seasons. Last year, my colleague Jonathan Bernier wrote that the celebrations had been dull, without magic, with little applause. Carey Price, Jonathan Drouin and Brendan Gallagher had received the warmest of welcomes.
The previous year, the crowd had shown its affection to Jacques Demers, Serge Savard and the players of the 1993 champion edition, as part of the 25e anniversary of the organization’s most recent Stanley Cup win.
I also remember the atmosphere that prevailed the night Demers led his first game behind the Canadian bench at the Forum.
Also, I delved into my memories in order to relive some of the Habs’ local opening games with you.
October 12, 1992
The Canadian is looking to get back on track after three consecutive eliminations at the hands of the Boston Bruins in the Adams Division final. The most recent occurrence the previous spring ended – oh supreme insult – with a sweep. Serge Savard reconfirms Pat Burns in his functions, to whom he granted a contract extension in the weeks preceding the playoffs. But Burns wants to leave and he leaves for Toronto.
Jacques Demers arrives fully inflated. Savard gives him two good offensive players by acquiring Vincent Damphousse and Brian Bellows. In his first game of the season at the Forum, the Canadian drew 3 to 3 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Stanley Cup champions the previous two years. But Demers tells whoever wants to hear him that his team will surprise. When training camp opens, he tells his players that they have what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. The rest is history.
October 12, 1985
The Canadian is in the third year of the five-year plan decreed by Ronald Corey, when Serge Savard was hired as general manager, in 1983. Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey and Mario Tremblay are the last three survivors of the big teams of the dynasty of the seasons 1975-1976 to 1978-1979. Guy Lafleur left in turmoil the previous season, as well as Steve Shutt.
Uncomfortable in the role of head coach, Jacques Lemaire is replaced by Jean Perron. A youth turn begins. Eight rookies are starting the season in Montreal, namely Patrick Roy, Stéphane Richer, Brian Skrudland and Mike Lalor, who helped the Sherbrooke Canadiens win the Calder Cup the previous season, as well as Steve Rooney, Kjell Dahlin, Sergio Momesso and Shayne Corson, who only stays for three meetings.
The young team clinched a 6-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in their first game in front of their fans. The season is going on a roller coaster. Perron is contested by his players. But in the series, Roy becomes miraculous. The season ends with a Stanley Cup parade on Sainte-Catherine Street.
October 10, 2000
However, there were also campaigns which did not begin with joy and which did not end with joy either.
For the first time since 1921, the Canadian begins the season after missing the playoffs two years in a row. Nothing is right. It’s a total stampede. Réjean Houle works with a limited salary budget. Molson Breweries of Canada place poster For sale in front of the amphitheater bearing the name of the famous Montreal family.
Houle acquires free agents Jim Campbell, Darryl Shannon, PJ Stock and Enrico Ciccone, who are just passing through.
The Canadian suffered a third loss in a row, losing their home opener by a score of 5-2 to the Edmonton Oilers. Alain Vigneault and Houle are replaced by Michel Therrien and André Savard after 20 games.
The Canadian became the property of George Gillett, an American from Colorado, in January 2001.
The team uses 42 skaters and four goalies. The Habs ended the campaign with 70 points, which is their poorest harvest, in a normal calendar, in the era of expansion (1967 to the present). He equals his unenviable record of three consecutive exclusions from the playoffs set between 1920 and 1922.
October 10, 2017
Marc Bergevin is making a number of changes to his roster after seeing them go out in the first round of the playoffs against the New York Rangers the previous spring. Ties are cut with Andrei Markov, Nathan Beaulieu and Alexei Emelin. Alexander Radulov joins the Dallas Stars.
Bergevin trades Mikhail Sergachev at the Tampa Bay Lightning for Jonathan Drouin. He gets David Schlemko in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes and offers contracts to Karl Alzner, Joe Morrow, Mark Streit and Ales Hemsky.
The Habs lost 3 to 1 in front of the Blackhawks, raising the curtain at the Bell Center. After a season of 71 points, Bergevin launches the reset operation.
The long awaited moment
Three years later, the metamorphosis is virtually complete. The Canadian looks great. It has been a long time since we saw such a balanced and explosive formation on the offensive.
After having eaten the wool on the back in front of his supporters for several years, the Habs now have what it takes to impose their law on their opponents.
Hope is finally back, but let’s keep a little embarrassment.
Let’s just enjoy the show. We will see for the rest of the things.