It’s the torch, le flambeau, that is tangibly passed from generation to generation of Habs greats, theirs to hold high. It works both literally and figuratively.
While Leaf front office types have grumbled for years that the Habs hijacked In Flanders Fields to get their hands on that torch, the Leafs have tried various copy-cat approaches. Most recently, they placed a boulder from the Canadian Shield outside their locker room to make the team feel “rock solid.” Get it?
Take Vincent Damphousse, the first French-Canadian draft pick by the Maple Leafs. The Montreal native came to the Leafs in 1986, a witness to the end of the Harold Ballard era, a time when captains were ridiculed by ownership, past Leaf greats were told to buy tickets if they wanted to see a game and the team was severed from its glorious past.
“The Ballard years were very tough,” says Damphousse. “The team was in a shambles when I played there. We had a committee of three general managers, a lot of different coaches. You could feel in the dressing room that you had no feel what direction the team wanted to go. There were no ex-players around the dressing room. There was no connection to the past. That’s very important. You’ve got to know where you come from.
“In Montreal, I used to see Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur all the time. They would come in and say hi. The kids that come from Europe don’t have a clue what being a Montreal Canadien means, but they feel it when they get there.”