Look how dapper Jean Beliveau is in this cover photo (below) of Vista from March 1989.
Inside is a nice feature, (if you’re a Habs fan) titled “The Way They Win,” about how the Canadiens up to that point had remained faithful to tradition and won often over the years, whereas the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to sink in quicksand. Writer Don Gillmor, who was a 34-year old Montrealer and Habs fan, said this about the Leafs…”The Leafs now start each season in winning form, prompting the faithful, the naive and the masochistic to declare, silently in the form of a prayer: maybe this year is the year. It never is, though, and the slow, inexorable decline begins each summer.”
This 23-year old quote mirrors almost exactly what happened to the Leafs this past season, only they held on until the last 25 games or so before they fell apart. But it’s nice too see how some things never change.
Beliveau was vice-president of corporate affairs for the Habs at that time, and he talks of the success of team marketing, with Gillmor giving examples of the number of souvenir boutiques around the city (18), the constant reminders to fans from the team about past glory and ghosts, and the involvement of former players such as Serge Savard as big reasons for the successful franchise.
It’s an article oozing with praise for the Habs, chalk-full of comparisons between them and the sad-sack Leafs and it’s nice to read, but I can see how legions of hockey followers learned to hate the Habs from articles such as this. It certainly has more than enough paragraphs of smugness. But having said this, I loved it.
Yes, things were better then. There was even another Stanley Cup to come a few years up the road. But that was then and this is now. It’s been dismal and the hockey world knows it and way too many love it.
But starting next season……..