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Grand moments

December 4th, 2009
MONTREAL  – As part of the festivities surrounding the club’s Centennial game, the Montreal Canadiens honoured two outstanding players whose contribution was key in the Canadiens success in its first 50 years of existence by officially retiring the jerseys of Émile Bouchard (3) and Elmer Lach (16).

Like the players who played in an era with extensive media coverage, the two most senior Canadiens in the Hockey Hall of Fame played an important role in the in four of the Canadiens first eight Stanley Cup championships.

"The decision to retire the jerseys of Émile Bouchard and Elmer Lach is the result of many discussions that took place over the past several months between the Gillett and Molson families and the Montreal Canadiens organization. We were guided by our fans in this decision and we also wanted to further recognize the great players from the first 50 years of the club.

Not only were they star players in their day, but Émile Bouchard and Elmer Lach are widely considered to be two proud Montrealers who dedicated their lives to their team and to their community. They are most deserving of this honour," said Montreal Canadiens President, Pierre Boivin.

Among all the players who completed their NHL career in the franchise’s first 50 years, Howie Morenz was the only player to have his jersey raised to the rafters. Yet, several players significantly contributed to the Canadiens’ success starting with the 20 players who suited up with the Canadiens prior to 1960 and who have since been enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. This initiative aims at recognizing the careers and achievements of two outstanding players of the original six era.

Since they retired from the game back in the fifties, Émile Bouchard and Elmer Lach have continued to make Montreal proud through their commitment and involvement in the community. The two Hall-of-Famers have a combined total of 29 NHL seasons, all in a Canadiens’ jersey, 1,638 regular season and playoff games and etched their name on the Stanley Cup seven times while making a name for themselves on the ice.

Émile Bouchard is among the best defensemen in Canadiens history playing in an era when the spotlights were on the offensive stars and individual awards were a rarity for those whose job it was to prevent scoring. Dubbed the “Rock of Gibraltar” for his herculean strength, Bouchard was second to none for shutting down the opposition and was an inspiration to younger teammates like Doug Harvey and Tom Johnson. A four-time All-Star, he captained the Canadiens during eight seasons and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.

Elmer Lach remains one of the NHL’s greatest playmakers and a central figure in Canadiens’ history. A member of the celebrated Punch Line playing between Maurice Richard and Toe Blake, he was twice the NHL’s leading scorer and the league’s most valuable player. When Lach retired from the game in 1954, he was the NHL’s all-time leader in assists with 408 helpers. Elmer Lach entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.