I wonder why it is that the CBC’s new documentary Montreal Canadiens - 100 Years, 100 Stars seems to have almost as much music video footage as it does game footage?
Why does it gloss over the downfall of the Habs over the last 20 years; when they have been to just two Stanley Cup finals and gone through their longest Cup drought ever.
And why does it seem, at times, like a plea for anglos and quebecois to get along?
Well, it’s honestly because this is less a telling of what happened and why as it is a retelling of memories. Memories of Skrudland scoring nine seconds into overtime in 1986; of Dryden’s outstretched leg in 1970; of a draw in 1975; of Roy winking in 1993.
Montreal is home of the Canadiens and, for a time, the most celebrated arena in hockey, the Montreal Forum. The Canadiens are maybe the most successful team in all of professional sports; maybe only the New York Yankees or Boston Celtics come close to rivaling their streak of success.
And it’s a pretty good cultural town, too. More then a few good bands have come from the city, many of which seem to be prominently featured in this documentary. It seems that for each player interviewed, there seems to be either an actor, a singer or somebody vaguely described as a performer.
Sam Roberts talks of his fandom; Viggo Mortenson explains that he wore a Canadiens shirt under his costume in Lord of the Rings; Guy Lafleur’s disco record makes a cameo appearance. Only the late Mordecai Richler is missing from this tapestry of the Montreal arts, for the obvious reason of his death.
But this isn’t an arts documentary, so where are the athletes? Host George Strombolopolis talks to Bob Gainey, Guy Lafleur, Guy Carboneau and Jean Beliveau. But Patrick Roy is conspicuously absent despite having a segment devoted to him; so are current Habs like Saku Koivu, who’s captaincy is briefly discussed.
There is some game footage, but it’s loosely defined. Bits and pieces are mixed together; only eagle-eyed fans are likely to tell cup runs apart. Still, there are the timeless clips: The Red Army playing in the Forum on the eve of 1976, Patrick Roy winking after a big save in the 1993 Finals, Jean Beliveau carrying the Stanley Cup off the ice in the last game he ever played.
On the whole, this was a fun program to watch, even for a devoted Leaf fan. But still, it seemed to lack focus; there was just so much on the cultural impact of the Canadiens, it seemed too much. There were light jokes about Montreal’s nightlife, there was a clips from assorted French-Canadian artists (Malajube’s Montreal -40 Celsius actually showed up twice) and precious little on key figures in Canadiens history: I barely heard the names Sam Pollock, Scotty Bowman and Danny Galavan.
For something as important as the hundredth anniversary of the Canadiens, this documentary was more then a little underwhelming. It was more about what they mean, rather then what they are.