After very much enjoying the Montréal Canadiens Hockey Hall of Fame on a recent visit to the exhibition in recent months I was saddened to learn that it was closing its doors permanently 31st August to make way for major renovations at the Bell Centre to “enhance the fan experience”.
The ten thousand square feet of hockey history that was opened to the public in early 2010 housed such amazing artifacts as a replica railcar used by the team for road games during the 1950’s, game worn uniforms, sticks and equipment such as Ken Dryden’s iconic 1970’s goalie mask and countless other pieces of Habs memorabilia saved over the decades by devoted fans. The highlight however was a reproduction of the Habs locker room from the old Montréal Forum as it looked during the 1976 – 1977 season when the team dominated the league losing only 8 times, setting a single season record 132 points and breezing through the playoffs winning the Stanley Cup in a four game sweep over the Boston Bruins thanks to nine future hall of famers including Dryden, Robinson, Lafleur, Lemaire, Cournoyer and Shutt. Having grown up glued to CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights during this era the space offered much childhood nostalgia and so lingered not wanting break the spell.
“In the coming months, as the real estate development projects around the Bell Centre move forward, we will be in a position to proceed with a number of new initiatives, including the redeployment of Centennial Plaza,” said Kevin Gilmore, the team’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer. “This beautiful new site will serve as a permanent gathering place for years to come that celebrates the history of our team, from its greatest legends to its unforgettable conquests and unparalleled legacy. The Hall of Fame will close in order to offer new amenities to fans and clients during games, though we will be redistributing certain of its displays and assets throughout the building so that they can continue to be enjoyed.”
Some of the donated items will be returned to individuals while others will go back to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto where they’d been on permanent loan. I’ll count myself lucky I had the good fortune to experience this exhibit before its closure as it was a superb afternoon add-on ahead of an evening playoff game at one of the temples of hockey.