Montreal Canadiens: Stories of Snowstorms Past


Canada, winter and snowstorms go hand in hand. The NHL, and all of hockey for that matter, has dealt with these at some point or another.

The most memorable story goes to Boston Bruins great Eddie Shore. Having missed his train to Montreal, to face the Maroons, Shore enlists a friend to make the trip by car. A nasty winter storm impeded the journey north and Shore’s companion turned out to be a white knuckle driver when it became a perilous drive.

The Hall of Fame defender was forced to take the wheel for most of the journey. After three sets of snow chains, numerous times getting stuck in the snow (even calling on a farmer in the dead of night for a pull and with little sleep Shore managed to make it to the game.

Recently, Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (seen below, courtesy of a Twitter post from his wife Angela) and rookie Jiri Sekac needed to make arrangements of their own, returning to Montreal from the All-Star Game in Columbus.

With a storm grounding commercial flights, the Habs made arrangements to retrieve the Price, Sekac and the rest of the Canadiens entourage, including team doctor David Mulder via private charter. Even their seven seat private plane was delayed in arrival at the Columbus airport.

Certainly not the first adventure for the Habs and Mother Nature. Over the years, the Canadiens and their opponents have had their shares of encounters with winter . Here are a few notable ones.

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  • February 20, 1924 – A game between the Canadiens and the defending Stanley Cup champion Ottawa Senators is cancelled when the Senators’ train ran is unable to pass the mounds of snow near Hawkesbury, ON.

    Unaware of the mystery of the missing Senators, the 6000 fans awaiting the game (a sellout crowd at the Mount Royal Arena) sang along as a band entertained them for 90 minutes. The game was called off by referee and eventual Boston Bruins manager Art Ross.

    The game was made up the following night. The Senators, perhaps tired from a day of trying to help dig out the train, and also aiding their fellow passengers, lost 3-0 to the Habs.

    March 4, 1971 – A game between the Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks was postponed after a blizzard passing through Eastern Canada engulfed Montreal . The City of Montreal made the request when public transit became erratic,  driving became extremely hazardous and 17 deaths occurred over the three day storm.

    February 19, 1972 – With a snowstorm moving in on Montreal, Canadiens trainer Eddy Palchak sends word to the team to make arrangements to arrive early to for their game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Habs forwards Yvan Cournoyer and Jacques Lemaire plan to take the Road Runner’s Jeep to the Forum, but highway conditions were so bad that Cournoyer does a U-turn and the pair opt to suit up to take their snowmobiles.

    With their overnight bags strapped on, for the trip to Buffalo following the game. When Cournoyer’s sled gave out in Dorval (Lemaire’s account never mentions this) , the pair piggy backed the rest of the way on Lemaire’s machine to the Forum garage, just in time for the game. Somewhere a Habs player from that dressing room must have a picture of the pair in their suits.

    “When we arrived, all the others players were already dressed for the game,” Cournoyer said, laughing in a Montreal Gazette interview. “In our snowmobile suits, we looked like we were from outer space.”

    Other Canadiens players, including Ken Dryden, Jacques Laperrière and Marc Tardif made the trip in on foot, taking as many as ninety minutes to hike through the snow. Coach Scotty Bowman didn’t think he’d manage the thigh-deep snowdrifts en route to the Dorval train station and a team shareholder arranged for a tow truck to retrieve Guy Lapointe and Denis DeJordy in Beloeil.

    Playing in front of 8,065 in attendance, the Canadiens beat the Flyers 3-1. Sledder Lemaire had a the opening goal and assisted on his companion Cournoyer’s game winner. For the record,  and despite the exhausting journey on Saturday , the Habs beat Buffalo  4-0 the following Sunday.

    January 29, 1977 – Only 14 Buffalo Sabres players manage to make the trip to Montreal after a blizzard traps the rest on the team. The undermanned Sabres still managed a 3-3 tie with the fuly complimented Canadiens

    March 26, 1978 – While the Canadiens had a strangle hold over the Norris Division in the 1977-78 season, the Boston Bruins were battling Buffalo for first in the Adams. Both teams had back-to-back games the weekend of March 25-26, with both meeting up in Boston on Sunday. A win at the Garden for the home team would be a good boost for the Habs rivals, as playoff time approached.

    With looming weather expected on the east coast, Canadiens GM Sam Pollock made a clever move. Then-Bruins coach Don Cherry, his book “Don Cherry’s Hockey Stories and Stuff” noted how Pollock, whom he considered the smartest guy in hockey ever,  convinced the Washington Capitals to move their Saturday night game at The Forum to the afternoon. “Well, Washington didn’t want to tick Sammy off,”said Cherry. “They agreed. So the Canadiens played the game in the afternoon, then flew to Boston. They’re in their beds watchin’ us play in Atlanta on Sunday night!”

    The Bruins took an early morning flight from Atlanta to Boston that was redirected to Hartford due to a snowstorm. “It was not a pleasant flight. You couldn’t see anythin’ We were bouncin’ all over and we were sittin’ at the back,” was how Cherry described one of his worst team flight experiences. “I said,”Well guys, if we go down, we go in first spot.’ The (Mike) Milbury said from the back, ‘Yeah, with a game in hand!'”

    Chery noted that it  didn’t get any easier for the Habs rivals, upon landing. “We had to go and get cars, believe it or not. This is the National Hockey League and they didn’t have a bus waitin’ for us. We had to rent cars, take our equipment in our cars, get back and play the Canadiens that night.”

    The Bruins had a 2-1 lead in the game, before a better rested Canadiens team earned a 2-2 tie.

    January 10, 1998 – The game between the Canadiens and the New York Rangers is postponed until March, as a result of the ice storm that paralyzed much of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec.

    December 20, 2009– The Canadiens defeat the New York Islanders 3-0 at the Nassau Colliseum. Attendance is listed at  7,842 people, predominantly Habs fans, due to a snow stowm that swept over Long Island that weekend. The Canadiens charter flight to Atlanta that Saturday night is delayed until Sunday afternoon, after more than two feet of snow grounded air travel.

    December 26, 2010 – Despite recommendations from both the Islanders organization and  Nassau County officials  to cancel the game between the Canadiens and Islanders, the two teams squared off in front of 3,136 fans in a 4-1 Isles win.  The county had appealed to the NHL to cancel the game but the league allegedly felt that based upon the fact that both teams arrived safely and were available to play, and because no state of emergency was declared for Nassau County, the game would go on.


    The Montreal Gazette

    Thanks to Vincent Couture for tracking down a couple dates and sources.