The Montreal Canadiens are an old and storied franchise. They’ve won 24 Stanley Cups in their 106-year existence, two times more than the second place Toronto Maple Leafs. So ask yourself, in 106 years and 24 Stanley Cups championships later, who were the five great hockey players to call Montreal home? Since the beginning, Montreal has been blessed with the crème de crème in terms of coaches and players. For years and years they were powerful, skilled, and completely unmatched on the ice. Here are the five greatest players to play for the Montreal Canadiens.
5. Henri Richard
Henri Richard, brother of the late Maurice Richard who is also on this list, won the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens a whooping 11 times. Almost no one in professional sports can boast that feat. Frank J. Selke went as far as saying that Henri Richard “may have been the greatest player I’ve ever had.” Nicknamed the pocket rocket, Henri would actually end his career having more points, assists, and games played than his brother. Considered a very complete player, Richard was a relentless fore checker and a leader in the dressing room before he even earned the Captaincy.
4. Guy Lafleur
Nicknamed the flower because of his last name, which literally translates to The Flower, Guy Lafleur was a scoring machine, a point-producing monster. On a team that is 106 years old and figures some of the biggest names to ever play in the NHL, Guy Lafleur is the all times points leader. Lafleur was the first player in NHL history to score over 50 goals and get more than 100 points in six straight NHL seasons. It’s not difficult to see why “The Blond Demon” (his nickname among French speaking fans) was so popular in Montreal. No one played with such grace and sheer speed as the flower, and he was the cornerstone of the five Stanley Cups Montreal won during his years with the club.
3. Maurice Richard
How can you even begin to describe the wonder that is Maurice Richard? The Rocket represents all that is hockey in the city of Montreal. Forming the feared ‘Punch Line’ with Toe Blake and the recently deceased Elmer Lach, Richard was part of eight Stanley Cup winning Montreal Canadiens, including five straight from 1956-1960. He actually captained the last four. Although Richard was an excellent leader on the ice, it was his voice for French Canadians in the NHL, and his criticism of then NHL President Clarence Campbell, that made him an icon for French Canadians playing in the NHL. In Montreal, the image of the Rocket’s eyes staring down the goalie before scoring a goal is etched into our hockey minds forever.
2. Jacques Plante
Jacques Plante, on top of being a world-class goalie, is an innovator that changed the NHL, and the game of hockey, forever. On top of being one of the first goalies to start playing the puck outside his crease, he was also the first goalie ever in the NHL to regularly start wearing a goalie mask. It was in 1959, after getting a puck to the face three minutes into a game and breaking his nose, that he came back out onto the ice wearing a goalie mask to his coach’s disdain. After that, he tested many different versions of a goalie mask, even the mask/helmet combination we see today. He was part of one of the most storied dynasties in the NHL’s history, winning six Stanley Cups, including five straight
1. Jean Beliveau
Jean Beliveau bled bleuc-blanc-rouge throughout his NHL career, winning an astounding 10 Stanley Cups with the Canadiens in 18 years, representing the team as captain for his lat 10 seasons. Although his skill and leadership was unmatched on the ice, it was his respect towards his fans and the people of Montreal that made him such a class act. When the Habs legend passed away last year, millions in the hockey world mourned his death, praising him for the amazing hockey player and respectful person he was.