Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Molson's Canadiens

Although technically not classified as being a hockey book, Hartland de Montarville Molson : Man of Honour, provides insight into the man who purchased the Montreal Canadiens in 1957.

Firefly Books, 2006, By Karen Molson, ISBN 13:978-1-55407-150-0

In the early years, the Molson family were mostly associated with their brewing empire. With the start of televised hockey games in the 1950's, family members were often seen in the "Molson box seats" just behind the Canadiens bench. The adjoining box belonged to Donat Raymond owner of the Canadian Arena Company. Under this corporate umbrella, Raymond had control of the Montreal Forum and the Canadiens hockey club. Herbert Molson (Hartland's father) had been a member of a financial consortium responsible for building the Forum in 1925. Both Raymond and Hartland were seated in the Canadian Senate, often seeing each other in Ottawa. The ties that bind became stronger when the beer company hired Jean Beliveau to work in their public relations department (1953).

In failing health and deeply concerned over the ownership issue after his death, Raymond looked to sell the team and Forum prior to his passing. Donat Raymond immediately thought of of Hartland Molson and contact was initially made through Canadiens GM Frank Selke and the head of Molson's PR Division, Zotique I'Esperance. The sale was completed by the end of September 1957.

During the Original Six era, team owners were closely involved with their clubs and were well known to the public. The Norris (Detroit), Adams (Boston), Wirtz (Chicago) and Smythe (Toronto) families were very visible owners. In New York, club President William Jennings was the public face for a corporate ownership group with no family ties to the franchise. Prior to Jennings, the Patrick family represented ownership in the Big Apple. In Montreal, the Molson family was front and centre when it came to ownership of the Habs. As noted in the book, during the early part of the depression in the 1930's they were the only well-to-do family not to cancel their subscription in the box seats.

As previously pointed out, this is not a hockey book in the typical sense. It may lack a consistent sports theme, but it does tell the life story of a truly great Canadian. It is along the lines of Scott Young's excellent book Conn Smythe : If You Can't Beat 'Em in the Alley. Published after Smythe's death and written in narrative form, the memoir tackles not only his hockey interests, but his very active life outside the game.

McClelland and Stewart, 1981, With Scott Young, ISBN 0-7710-9078-1

Both books delve into the lives of two individuals who had a great passion and love of family, country and commerce. Each book provides background on their life before and after the game of hockey Again, the Molson book does not contain a heavy degree of hockey content. This, however, should not restrict one from reading the story of an important man who guided Canada's most successful hockey team.

No comments:

Post a Comment