Over its decades of use, the Montreal Forum became one of the signature arenas in the NHL, building a reputation for its intimidating atmosphere for opponents. The Montreal Canadiens left the venue in the mid-1990’s, but the Forum did not go away. Instead, the building found a new life that allows it to serve multiple purposes while simultaneously honoring its rich NHL history.
The Canadiens opened a new era in Montreal hockey on November 29, 1924, when they played the first regular-season game at the Montreal Forum. Their 7-1 win over the Toronto St. Pats gave the Forum a fitting opening, but the Canadiens were not actually at the arena’s primary team, as that distinction belonged to the Montreal Maroons.
The Canadiens shifted their November 29 matchup to the Forum because of issues with the ice at their primary home, Mount Royal Arena. The Maroons played their first regular-season game at Montreal Forum on December 3, 1924, when they dropped a 2-0 contest to the Hamilton Tigers. While the Maroons played on at the Forum, the Canadiens continued their residency at Mount Royal Arena. In fact, it would not be until 1926 that the Canadiens would call the Montreal Forum their full-time home.
From there, the Maroons and Canadiens shared the arena. The Maroons won two Stanley Cups during their time at the Montreal Forum, while the Canadiens would claim their first Forum-era cup in 1930. Despite the success of the clubs on the ice, economic hardship during the Great Depression had an effect, and the Maroons were unable to survive as they suspended operations in 1938.
That left the Canadiens to make memories at the Montreal Forum, and the club responded by creating a tremendous legacy there. Remaining at the arena for several more decades, the Canadiens would become one of the most successful franchises in the NHL. The club won its most recent Stanley Cup in 1993, defeating the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 at the Forum. The franchise’s success also affected its home arena, as Montreal Forum underwent a dramatic expansion and renovation in 1968.
By the mid-1990’s, the NHL was undergoing something of a boom when it came to new arenas. Montreal was affected by that trend, as the Canadiens opted to leave their venerable home for the Molson Centre (since renamed the Bell Centre) in downtown Montreal. Their final game at the Forum was played on March 11, 1996, when they defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1.
Montreal Forum was now without hockey for the first time in decades. Though it was no longer in use for NHL, the building has had a new life, thanks to a conversion project that saw it transformed into an entertainment complex. Much of the interior was gutted while the exterior was left it place, allowing the Forum to continue to stand out amidst its surroundings.
Inside the building, there is a marker to note the location of center ice, complete with a section of Montreal Forum seats. Throughout the building, there are several other reminders of the Forum—including original seats—blended into the building’s current purposes, which include a movie theatre, restaurants, and gathering spaces.
Throughout its history, the Montreal Forum became one of the most iconic arenas in the NHL. While it no longer serves the Canadiens, the building has been preserved just enough to serve as a unique historic site and allow the Montreal Forum to live on.
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