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Are The Canadiens A Religion? / The Creed Of The Canadiens


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Are the Canadiens a religion?

Worshipping the Habs

Graeme Hamilton, National Post

Back in the days of Maurice Richard, there were tales of ailing Montreal Canadiens fans who claimed they had been cured by touching his jersey. Today, the young goalie expected to lead the team to playoff glory has been nicknamed Jesus Price. That Montrealers are mad about hockey is no secret, but students at the Université de Montréal will soon be learning that the fervour is religious.

Beginning in January, the university's faculty of theology will begin offering a graduate course titled "The Religion of the Montreal Canadiens." Olivier Bauer, the professor who conceived the course, said that since moving here from Switzerland in 2006, he has been struck by the parallels between Montreal's hockey team and religion. When he saw that the team was about to celebrate its centennial season, he decided the time was right "to finally address the question that nobody dares ask: whether the Montreal Canadiens are a religion," he said.

"Nobody has examined what this really means, all the religious aspects around the Montreal Canadiens. Is it just a metaphor? Is there something deeper? How important is it, and what is the relationship to Quebec's Catholic tradition?"

When he took on the project, not everyone in the faculty was enthusiastic. "At first, people thought it was almost a joke," he said.

Mr. Bauer approached colleagues for contributions to a book on the subject to appear early next year. "Some said yes, others said no. But people made fun of me a little, saying ‘He's not serious. Who is this guy who is interested in hockey?' "

The university offered him a $7,000 grant to help his research and invite a visiting lecturer, but he was advised to tread carefully. "I think the fear was of treating religion with too little respect. Using the word incarnation in the context of a sport, for example, or calling a hockey match a mass, some people might find it insulting."

The doubting Thomases notwithstanding, Mr. Bauer is persuaded that the Canadiens have the characteristics of a religion, beginning with the devotion of their fans. Since news of the course was first reported in Le Devoir, Mr. Bauer has heard from people saying, "Yes, that is me, hockey is my religion." A young woman commenting on Le Devoir's web site said she considers it a sin to miss a Habs game. Last season, when the team was facing elimination in the playoffs, she said she sought to bring the team luck by climbing on her knees the 283 steps to the St. Joseph Oratory.

Mr. Bauer noted that nicknames associated with the team often draw on religion. The jersey is known as the Sainte Flanelle, literally the Holy Flannel. Guy Lafleur was known as the "démon blond" or blond devil, and Patrick Roy was dubbed Saint Patrick. Carey Price, the team's current goalie, was nicknamed Jesus by some last year because Price rhymes with *****.

Mr. Bauer also sees significance in the motto that adorns the Canadiens' dressing room, taken from the poem In Flanders Fields: "To you from failing hands we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high." It is in keeping with the idea of redemption through suffering, and he sees a parallel with ***** on the crucifix. "It's not a club where strength is put forward but rather failing hands," he said. "The [Philadelphia] Flyers sell their team as warriors but not the Canadiens."

That is not to say the Canadiens don't occasionally go into battle. Last Saturday, after a cheap shot by a visiting member of the Phoenix Coyotes knocked Montreal's Andrei Kostitsyn out of the game, the crowd began howling for Georges Laraque, the team enforcer, to settle accounts. Even in an apparent animal reaction, Mr. Bauer spots a religious side.

"Is it Georges Laraque who is sacrificing himself for the others, because he will receive a penalty? Or has he come as the avenging angel with a sword in his hand?" he wondered. "Maybe, symbolically, one is ready to kill or to die for one's club, and for one's hockey team. It remains symbolic, thank God."

The final phase of the 16-week course will challenge students, all of whom are studying to become priests or ministers, to consider the Canadiens in their pastoral duties.

"How do I manage this religious side of the Canadiens if I am a priest or pastor or rabbi?" Mr. Bauer said. "Do I oppose the Canadiens because it is idolatry, or do I try to use what I can because it works well and maybe my church would work better if I could invite [Canadiens stars] Alex Kovalev or Saku Koivu to take part in the mass from time to time?"

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The Creed of the Canadiens

National Post

I believe in the Canadiens, the club almighty

Creator of Heaven, earth and the Holy Flannel

And in Maurice Richard, our Saviour

Who was conceived of sane mind

Born for the good of the homeland

Suffered under Clarence Campbell

Was crucified for a bad decision

That almost killed us

And ascended into Heaven

And is seated at the right hand of the great Referee

From thence he shall come to judge the good players and the cowards

I believe in the Holy NHL,

The Communion of old Canadiens heroes

The forgiveness of years without the Stanley Cup

The resurrection during the next playoffs

And glory everlasting.


- Pierre Castonguay, responding Oct. 14 to an article in Le Devoir about Professor Bauer's course on the religion of the Montreal Canadiens.

- 30 -

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I noted this thread earlier but didn't have time to look at it but I just got into the article now. I'm a fanatic fan of the Habs and I can't help but laugh because I've always recognized that about myself. I absolutely love the Creed but I would love to amend two or three lines towards the end, just to fine-tune it, and I will be printing it and mailing it to friends and memorizing it. I know of the 'Jesus Price' references and I, personally, would love a 'Price Saves' bumper sticker or t-shirt.

Are the Canadiens A Religion? Well, we all know they're not! They're a darn good hockey team that play in the NHL (I won't give it Holy but I'll get behind a Holy Game of Hockey) and will (g-dwilling) hoist their 25th Stanley Cup.

They're are so many definitions and understandings of the word religion. I learned that, at it's root, it stems from re (to do again) - lig (to tie together, think 'ligament') - ion (having to do with a first cause). Like I said, that's how I learned it at some point, boiling down to religion being that which us brings us back in connection with our maker. In that light, I don't think the Canadiens are a religion.

A religion is often made of sacred spaces, rituals, and communal gatherings that identify it's values and tenets.

What was ever more Sacred to Fans than the Forum? Keck, it still is to a lot of Fans. My mom is going to a game in December, planning a small trip out of it. The Forum, I guess, still marks Centre Ice with a Memorial. That's sacred.

With respect to the sacred space element to religion , I would say, yes, the Canadiens could be a religion.

There are all forms of prayer, meditation, worship that permeate religions around the world. They are done in the same manner always, often for no other reason than because that's how they've always been done; but sometimes because it works more often than not. I always try to wear a black shirt under my Habs jersey on Gamedays because the Team wins more often than when I don't. Or than when I don't wear my jersey at all. I know, we all know, it bears no difference on the outcome but I think about it anyways.

Besides that, a Team that believes in Ghosts shouldn't balk at Superstition. :D

So with respect to the ritualistic element to religion , I would say, yes, the Canadiens could be a religion.

A religion often involves gathering together in community. Well, let me count the ways: how many nights of 21,000 and some odd people at every home game?, how many people watching?, how many people listening?, how many people on this forum for Gameday and anything else that satisfies their need to be in touch with other Fans of the Team?

So with respect to the communal aspect to religion , I would say, yes, the Canadiens could be a religion.

I'd love to take this course the article mentioned.

In a nutshell:

Are the Canadiens a religion? No, they're a hockey team.

Being a Fan of the Canadiens? Now that's a different story altogether.


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  • 2 months later...

must have been a slow newsday, there's another article about this topic:


University course explores Habs fandom and God

By Andy Blatchford, THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL - Quebec's century-long bond to the Montreal Canadiens has been called passion, and even obsession. Now a university theologian has branded it as religion.

The Swiss-born Universite de Montreal professor said the ubiquitous relics and rituals linked to the Habs struck him when he arrived in the city a few years ago.

The similarities prompted Olivier Bauer to launch a crusade - in the form of a university course - to explore the many ties between a team that hails its sweater as La Sainte Flanelle - or holy flannel - and spiritual devotion.

"It was a divine inspiration," Bauer said of the idea for his new French-language class, the Religion of the Canadiens.

"It was clear that the Canadiens were a kind of religion. For me, it was amazing that in Montreal there was a hockey jersey that is holy."

To back his thesis, Bauer refers to nicknames of the Canadiens' most notable "prayer leaders," including Saint Patrick (Patrick Roy), Le Demon Blond - the Blond Demon (Guy Lafleur) - and the team's current saviour, Jesus Price (Carey Price).

He said Canadiens worshippers have long told stories of the ghosts of players past that reside in the Forum - and Bell Centre - rafters, and the many miracles performed by Maurice (Rocket) Richard.

Bauer said while hockey's religious symbols are everywhere in Canada, he believes the faith runs deepest in Quebec's francophone culture.

"The Canadiens are the proof that we have God's blessing," he said of Quebecers' pride in the only major pro sports team that has had a consistent presence in the province over the last 100 years.

"The Canadiens are proof that Quebec is able to win over Toronto, Ottawa, New York or Boston and so on."

The first-ever semester of the 16-week course began earlier this month in a small classroom at the Montreal campus.

Student Mathieu Roy, 22, a native Montrealer who lived in Calgary for eight years, said after experiencing hockey fandom in both cities, he now understands the kind of spiritual weight the Canadiens have on many Quebecers' lives.

"The difference is that over there (in Calgary) it's only just for fun," said the psychology/sociology major.

"There's something more here (in Montreal). Here, everybody plays hockey, everybody's talking about it and people who don't like it, or don't want to talk about it, will feel alone.

"There's not too many people who hate hockey in the province of Quebec."

Rejean Houle, a former Canadiens player and general manager, said the Roman Catholic Church was a big part of his life while growing up in the Quebec mining town of Rouyn-Noranda.

"We were raised with this religion just like we were raised with the history of the Montreal Canadiens - there's a common (thread) there," said Houle, 59, who had the colossal task of trading Saint Patrick, the Hall of Fame goaltending legend.

"People were practising their prayers a lot and going to mass on Sunday, but also listening to the hockey game on Saturday night. That was part of the ritual."

Bauer describes hockey players as the prayer leaders - some are saints and others are traitors.

The toughest of the current lot, who he names as Habs enforcer Georges Laraque, could even be considered the avenging angel.

"He brings some justice on the rink," Bauer said.

- 30 -

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where do i sign up??? hehe

acutally to bring in fans from that cheer for "other" teams, they are even amazed at the way the "church" can rise even from a few passes in a row. I brought some frids of mine to the "church" about a month ago, they are not habs fans, but they could "feel" -- something-- in the air when they walked into the main bowl of the Bell Centre. I told them that it's a collective of Pride, Hope, and a few ghosts from 100 years of passion.

I snuck down to the ice before the game when the guys were skating around and taking a few shots... and I had to touch the glass... it was only for a second until I was asked to move.. but it was amazing

-- please do not make my references to the "church" too seriously please... it was very tougne in cheek.. if I have offened anyone I am sorry.

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Is this ig enough? :lol:


IS that a big screen TV in front of the building?

I assume that the "church" would have a lot of huge TVs with bars, sofa's and fast food and maybe a dancing area (with a brass pole).

Just trying to iron out the details of what this new religion would need to have. Attendance would be mandatory on Saturday nights.

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