Episode 9

Winter of Discontent

Maurice Richard and the Montreal Forum
Perhaps it never scored a goal, made a save or delivered a check, but many fans who took in a hockey game at the venerable Montreal Forum swore it had a say in the outcome. On March 11, 1996, the Montreal Canadiens laid to rest their legendary home (and the ghosts said to inhabit it) with a 4-1 defeat of the Dallas Stars. The post-game ceremony included a parade of past Habs greats and, in a nod to the famous lines from John McRae's poem "In Flanders Fields" featured on the wall of the team's dressing room, a symbolic passing of a flaming torch amongst Canadiens captains past and present.

The highlight of the evening, though, came when an emotional Maurice Richard received a 16-minute standing ovation, the longest in Forum history.

From his roots in the working-class Montreal neighbourhood of Bordeaux, Richard had become the most beloved player in Canadiens history. "The Rocket" was the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in the first 50 games of a season and the first to reach 500 goals for his career. Led by his fiery brilliance and record six playoff overtime winners, the Habs won eight Stanley Cups in Richard's 18 seasons with the team.

Richard was always a reluctant star, though, and he appeared genuinely surprised as the adoring crowd assembled for the final game at the Forum cheered him wildly. But as the applause continued to wash over him as he stood for the final time on the ice where he had become a French Canadian folk hero, Richard broke down in tears.

When the crowd wrapped up the ovation with a raucous chant of "Go Habs Go," Richard stood with his eyes closed. The 74-year-old hockey legend would later say that, as he absorbed for one last time the love of the Forum faithful, he was transported back to his glory days.

Montreal Forum, Library and Archives Canada

Montreal Forum, Library and Archives Canada

Red Horner, 'Mush' March and Maple Leaf Gardens
Almost three years after their rivals in Montreal shut down one of hockey's greatest shrines, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs said goodbye to an old friend of their own. On February 13, 1999 the Leafs hosted the Chicago Blackhawks in the final NHL game at 67-year-old Maple Leaf Gardens. Various Leafs alumni appeared for the storied building's closing festivities, with the evening highlighted by the return of legendary Leaf Red Horner and former Chicago Blackhawk Mush March, both of whom played in the arena's inaugural game in 1931.

Horner was a player of limited skills but boundless toughness during his 12-year career, all spent with the Leafs. His hardnosed style, exemplified by his eight NHL penalty-minute "titles," meshed perfectly with Toronto's hardworking character, making Horner a fan favourite. A Stanley Cup champion in 1932, Horner was 89 years old on the night of the final game at the Gardens, making him the oldest living Leafs captain.

Meanwhile, the puck used for the ceremonial face off that night was the same one March had netted some 68 years earlier for the first-ever goal at the Gardens. Six days after shutting down their famed arena, the Leafs held a parade from their old home to the brand-new Air Canada Centre, which Toronto christened on February 20, 1999 with an overtime win over the rival Montreal Canadiens.

Maple Leaf Gardens, Hockey Hall Of Fame

Maple Leaf Gardens, Hockey Hall Of Fame

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