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Les Canadiens de Montreal are one of those franchises that almost transcend their sport — not so dissimilar to the way the Yankees and Red Sox do for baseball, or Manchester United and Liverpool do for Premier League football. These teams (and there are others) have a permanent mystique surrounding them — an aura that you can’t quite put your fingers one but you know is within your grasp.
One thing that particularly interests me is the history of their emblem — the “C” with the “H” within. Where does that come from? What does it really stand for? It seems everyone has their opinion about its origin, but I wonder how many are actually right?
I have heard many argue that the H stands for “Habitants”, believing the letter represents the fact that the players inhabit Canada. Further, they point to how the team name is shortened to “Habs”, which must mean the entire name is “Habitants de Canada”. A worthy suggestion, I suppose.
In speaking with some historians steeped in Habs lore, The Peculiar Side of Sports has tried to ascertain the real meaning behind these letters, which are as important to the team’s identity as Robinson, Richard, Lafleur or Plantes.
Habitants – Rangers and MSG owner Tex Rickard told a reporter that the H stood for Habitants in 1924. He was the first to officially give the team the nickname “Habitants”. However, since the CH logo had been in-place since the start of the 1916-17 season, this cannot be the reason for the H.
Editor’s Note: “The term Habitant does not come from the fact the team inhabits Canada but in fact goes back even further to the French Regime, and existed in France, to mean farmers who live on seigneurial land, and the nickname comes from the fact that Les Canadiens was the French Canadian team, while the Wanderers (and later the Maroons) were anglo teams. ” – from Mattyleg at HabsInsideout.com
Still the H in the logo does not stand for Habs or Habitants as many suggest, instead the real answer is that the Canadiens as a team, and in their official name and not nickname have evolved over the years and we can see this in the evolution of the team’s jersey, which is detailed below:
The club was born in 1909 and were simply known as “Club Canadien”, with a simple “C” on their jersey.
In time for the 1912-1913 season, they became “Club Athletique Candien”, and the letters “CAC” were on their emblem.
In 1914-1915, it again changed to a C with a smaller A within the C, which was the same uniform they donned in winning their first Stanley Cup in 1915-1916.
By the next season, 1916-1917, the Club Athletique Candiens was no longer in business, and as you can see, the A was changed to an H, and the “Club de Hockey Canadien” was born. The uniform has been largely unchanged since, with only minor cosmetic alterations. Upon closer inspection, there are actually two C’s in the Canadiens’ logo – an inner C and outer C, which represents the full team’s name, along with the H.
Perhaps some of you already knew this history, but I hazard to guess that many didn’t. I have personally heard many versions of the “truth”, all slightly off-base. So, as history shows us, the H does not stand for Habitants, as that was only coined years after the logo was created. Instead the outer C represents Club, the H signifies Hockey, and the inner C represents Canadien – in full, “Club de Hockey Canadien”.
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