What’s in a Name?
What do La Sainte-Flanelle, Les Canadiens, and Habs all have in common? They are just a few of the many nicknames for the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League.
The Montreal Canadiens have been around a long time — a really long time. In fact, they are the only current NHL hockey team to have been around before the league began in 1923. The team was founded in 1909, and have since won 24 Stanley Cups. But why does this team have so many nicknames and where do they come from?
Why Are the Montreal Canadiens Called the Habs?
One of the most common nicknames for players and fans of this NHL team is “the Habs.” This is short for “Les habitants” or “the habitants.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a habitant is “a settler or descendant of a settler of French origin working as a farmer in Canada.”
Habitant or Hab as a nickname for the Canadiens appears to have its roots in a mistake made by Tex Rickard, former owner of Madison Square Garden in New York. In a 1924 interview, he apparently told a reporter that the “H” in the Canadiens’ logo stood for “Habitants”.
This, however, is not true. Regardless, the nickname caught on.
What About Their Logo?
So just what does the “H” stand for in the Canadiens’ logo? Hockey!
Both the logo and team name of the Canadiens has changed a lot since their founding. When the team first came into being in 1909, they were known as Club Canadien. In 1912, the name was changed to Club Athlétique Canadien, and was frequently referred to as CAC, which came to be represented in their current logo at the time.
In 1914, the team logo shifted once more. The team was still known as CAC, but the A was small and located between the two Cs. By 1916, a complete name change was in order and the hockey team became the Club de Hockey Canadien. The logo design featured a large C and a small, inner C, along with an H located in the middle of the logo.
The “H” has always stood for “hockey”, never “Habs”.
What Other Weird Nicknames Do the Canadiens Go By?
While Habs has become the most popular nickname for Montreal Canadiens, it isn’t the only one. This NHL team boasts a wide variety of monikers, some much more common than others. A few well-known names include:
Le Grand Club
Le Bleu Blanc-Rouge
Some of these nicknames fit well with the team and their history, while many are quite strange. For example, La Sainte-Flanelle means the holy flannel and refers to the religious-like fandom of the team from Montreal.
This does beg the question of why? Why are the Montreal Canadiens called the Habs and other weird nicknames?
Well, the short answer is that they have been around a long time, and have been very successful. It is not uncommon for teams, especially those that have long dominated a sports league, to acquire a number of nicknames throughout the years. Look at the New York Yankees of the MLB, for example, who are often compared to the Montreal Canadiens because of their equally storied history. They have many nicknames as well, like the Pinstripes, the Evil Empire, the Bronx Bombers, the Bronx Zoo, etc.
In that context, having many nicknames doesn’t seem quite so strange. Win 24 Stanley Cups, and you can call yourself pretty much anything.