When the time came for the Montreal Canadiens to depart the hallowed halls of the Montreal Forum in 1996 and move into the brand new and much bigger Molson Centre, I took it personally. I thought, “you rotten bastards.”
So what that the Forum was no longer economically feasible, that more luxury boxes and more regular seating were needed, and that a new rink was necessary for the franchise to carry on. What about my memories? Didn’t anybody care about that?
I can be like that sometimes. Stupid.
But then I saw Jean Beliveau interviewed one day on television, and he said he was happy to see the team move over. He said the old Forum had used up its usefullness, it was old, and it was time to get with the modern age. He was excited.
So I thought, if Jean Beliveau, who should be feeling worse than any of us about this, is happy and excited about the move, then I’m going to be too. And the Molson Centre, now the Bell Centre, has proved over the last fifteen years to have its own charm, its own ear-splitting thunderous cheers from the rafters, and I’ve come to embrace it.
I have one complaint, though. I’ve never been crazy about the larger painted crests at centre ice with the wording “Centre Bell, Bell Centre.” The Forum had two smaller and simpler CH crests, with no lettering, and I liked this better. But talk about nitpicking.
Below is the official news release for the inauguration of the Molson Centre, taking you through the various events beginning with the final game at the Forum against the Dallas Stars on March 11, 1996 with the ceremony following. On March 15th the “Big Move,” with the parade from the Forum to the new building, then the official inauguration on March 16th. The following day, visitors could enjoy an open house to have a look for themselves.