Molson Centre renamed Bell Centre

The Montreal Canadiens will soon have a new home rink. But in name only.

Canadiens owner George Gillett confirmed on Tuesday that the Molson Centre will be renamed the Bell Centre come September 1.

Bell Canada paid $100 million US for naming rights to the $265 million facility over the next 20 years.

That sum includes $40 million Bell already pays for arena advertising.

"The Montreal hockey team is more than just a sports team," Bell Canada president Jean Monty said. "It's very much an institution for our customers across Quebec."

"To be responsible, we have to ensure the economic viability of the enterprise going forward and also return as much of it as we can in players and on-ice performance," Gillett added.

Tuesday's transaction does not affect Gillett's 100 per cent ownership of the arena or his 80.1 per cent majority stake in the Canadiens.

Molson Inc. retains the remaining 19.9 per cent.

"We have relinquished these valuable naming rights so that an existing sponsor, Bell, can increase its commitment to the team," said Dan O'Neill, president and chief executive officer of Molson Inc.

"George Gillett and Molson have agreed from the outset to do what is in the best interest of the Montreal Canadiens and we believe that this is a win-win situation that will contribute to the drive for a 25th Stanley Cup."

The Canadiens have attracted approximately 850,000 annual patrons since closing the Montreal Forum and moving to the Molson Centre in 1996.

The Centre also houses the Montreal Rocket of the QMJHL and Montreal Express of the NLL.