The Peculiar Side of Sports: What does the “C” and “H” on the Habs Jerseys Really Stand For?

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Updated: October 10, 2012
Canadiens Logo

Editor’s Note:  In “The Peculiar Side of Sports”, we aim to answer some of sport’s most interesting peculiarities and burning questions.  If you have any questions you would like answered simply send email to [email protected]

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 opinions about its origin, but I wonder how many are actually right?

I have heard many believe the H stands for “Habitants” – as if the letter represents the fact that the players inhabit Canada.  They believe this mostly because the team is shortened to “Habs”, as you already know, which must mean the entire name is “Habitants de Canada”.  A worthy suggestion, but is it right?

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, as depicted in the images 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”.

If you have any sports related questions which have been nagging you, send email to [email protected], or add your comments below, and The Peculiar Side of Sports will do our best to investigate.

Don’t forget to tune into “Puckheads“, a one-hour hockey show airing every Wednesday night from 10-11pm EST, or listen to our podcasts which can be found in the sidebar on our main page, or by visiting Last Word Radio Network’s home page.

 

12 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    October 10, 2012 at 9:10 am

    It’s been well established that the logo in fact shows where to put da centre hice chalice de tabernac!

  2. jim

    October 10, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Thanks for clearing that up. I’ve been wrong all these years. Great piece.

  3. Anonymous

    October 10, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Fix the spelling errors! Otherwise good piece. Any true Habs fan should already know this…

    • Michael Kovacs

      October 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Sorry, might have missed something.. where is error?

    • Michael Kovacs

      October 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      And for the record, I am FAR from a Habs fan! Lol

  4. Casey J

    October 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Surprised this wash’t written by Jack Stone, great piece!

  5. Pingback: Peculiar Side of Sports: Origins of NHL Nicknames (Eastern Conference) | Last Word On Sports

  6. John

    May 29, 2014 at 9:15 am

    I am curious about the origin of the C and the H on the Canadians jersey with respect to your above explanation. If you go to the mining museum up in Cobalt Ontario, they tell a different story. In that, they indicate the C and the H stand for Cobalt Halibury, where they played in the early years and later moved to Montreal after the silver boom ended. So which is correct?

    • Michael Kovacs, Admin

      May 29, 2014 at 10:40 am

      Thanks, John. Having contacted the club and many hockey historians, I have never heard of that explanation. That’s the beautiful thing about (Sports) history: it always changes and well always learn more, so long as we aren’t too egomanical to accept that there are conflicting views to your own.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Ben Kerr, Admin

      May 29, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      The team from Cobalt did not move to Montreal, that is incorrect. One of the owners of the Cobalt team went and founded a new franchise in Montreal.

      As well… the H standing for Cobalt Halibury makes no sense. As you can see from the various sweartes they contain the letters CAC in the early years of the franchise… 1910-1916. That is becase they stood for Club Athletique Canadien (the first name of the franchise)… later the same year the franchise’s official name is changed to Club du Hockey Canadien (1916, and two ownership changes later, the H replaces the A).

      The fact that an owner who was not part of Cobalt Halibury would suddenly put an H on the jersey, 7 years after they were founded in Montreal, by an owner who did come from Cobalt is fact. To believe that he did so because of a company that he was never a part of and it isn’t because he was changing the name from Club Athletique Canadien to Club du Hockey Canadien, is illogical.

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