- The Montreal Forum opened in 1924 as a home for the NHL Montreal Maroons.
- The Montreal Canadiens moved to the Forum in 1926, eventually filling the rafters with Stanley Cup banners.
- Montreal last played at the Forum on March 11, 1996.
The Montreal Forum, (known in French as ‘Le Forum de Montréal’) one of the most storied arenas in the history of ice hockey and Canadian sports, has a rich and fascinating history. Opened on November 29, 1924, it was initially constructed as a home for the Montreal Maroons of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Maroons, however, were just one of the teams to call the Forum home, as it also became the legendary arena of the Montreal Canadiens, one of the most successful franchises in NHL history.
Built by the Canadian Arena Company, the Montreal Forum was originally designed to seat about 9,300 spectators. Its construction marked a significant step in the evolution of hockey arenas from mere sporting venues to major entertainment destinations. The Forum quickly established itself as a centerpiece of Canadian sports culture, largely due to the success of the Canadiens.
The Montreal Canadiens moved into the Forum in 1926, two years after its opening. This move began an era of unparalleled success and dominance in professional hockey. The Canadiens, also known as “Les Habitants” or “Habs,” went on to win 24 Stanley Cups, most of which were won during their tenure at the Forum. The arena thus became synonymous with excellence and was revered as a temple of hockey, not just in Montreal or Canada, but globally.
The Forum underwent several renovations and expansions over the years to accommodate its growing popularity. Its seating capacity was increased in various stages, eventually reaching around 17,959 seats for hockey games. Beyond its importance in sports, the Forum also hosted various other events, including concerts, political rallies, and cultural gatherings, making it a versatile and vital part of Montreal’s social and cultural life.
The atmosphere inside the Montreal Forum was electric, with passionate fans creating an environment that many players and commentators described as unmatched. The building had a unique aura, partly due to its historical significance and the many legendary moments that occurred there, including numerous dramatic playoff victories and iconic performances by some of hockey’s greatest players.
Despite its iconic status, the Forum faced challenges in the latter part of the 20th century. The aging structure and changing needs of modern sports audiences led to the decision to replace it with a more modern facility. The Canadiens played their last game at the Forum on March 11, 1996, moving to the Molson Centre (now known as the Bell Centre), a state-of-the-art arena.
After the Canadiens’ departure, the Montreal Forum underwent a significant transformation. It was redeveloped into a multipurpose entertainment complex, officially reopening in 1998. The complex retained the exterior facade of the original building and included a cinema, shops, restaurants, and a small museum-like display commemorating the Forum’s history.
The Montreal Forum’s legacy extends beyond the physical building. It symbolizes a golden era of hockey, a time when the sport was intertwined with national identity and local pride. It witnessed some of the greatest moments in hockey history and housed a team that became a symbol of excellence in sports. For many, the Forum is not just a former arena but a hallowed ground that embodies the spirit and passion of hockey.