Why the Montreal Canadiens Are Called the Habs

And Other Trivia About the Famous Hockey Team

The Edmonton 'Oilers' take on the Montreal 'Canadiens' in a game of ice hockey in the Bell Centre stadium.
Glenn Van Der Knijff / Getty Images

The National Hockey League team the Montreal Canadiens were founded in 1909 and are the longest continuously operating professional ice hockey team in the world. Players and fans are often called the Habs, which is believed to be an abbreviation of les habitants, the informal name given in the 17th century to the original settlers of "New France." At its peak in 1712, the territory of New France, also known as the French North American Empire or Royal New France, extended from Newfoundland to the Canadian prairies and from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, including all the Great Lakes of North America.

Other nicknames for the Canadiens include French monikers such as Les Canadiens, Le Bleu-Blanc-RougeLa Sainte-FlanelleLe TricoloreLes Glorieux, and Le Grand Club.

Habs Might Be an Erroneous Nickname

The "Habs" nickname might have been the result of an error in 1924. The first man to refer to the team as the Habs was Tex Rickard, the found of the National Hockey League and the owner of Madison Square Garden. Rickard apparently told a reporter that the "H" in the logo on the Canadiens' jerseys stood for habitants, which is not true. The distinctive C-wrapped-around-H logo stands for the hockey team's official name, le Club de Hockey Canadien. The "H" stands for "hockey."

Logo Changes

The Montreal Canadiens' current CHC logo was not adopted until 1914. Jerseys for the 1909-10 season were blue and featured a single white C. For its second season, the team had red jerseys featuring a green maple leaf with a C logo and green pants. The season before adopting their current look, the Canadiens wore a "barber pole" design jersey with red, white, and blue stripes. The team's logo was a white maple leaf reading "CAC," which stood for Club athlétique Canadien. To celebrate their centenary, the team players wore jerseys featuring these early logos during the 2009-10 season.

Other Trivia

The Canadiens are the only existing hockey team to predate the founding of the NHL. The team has won the Stanley Cup more times than any other franchise, taking home the championship trophy on 24 occasions (most recently during the 1992-93 season). The Canadiens are one of the most successful sports teams in North America.

Although the team has been fondly known as the Habs for nearly 100 years, the Canadiens did not have a mascot until the 2004 NHL season when they adopted Youppi! as their official mascot. The orange furball was designed by Bonnie Erickson, a puppet artist known for her work with Jim Henson on the Muppets (she also designed Miss Piggy). Youppi! had been the longtime mascot for the Montreal Expos until the franchise moved to Washington, D.C., in 2004 and became the Washington Nationals. With the switch, Youppi! became the first mascot in a professional sport to change leagues.

The Canadiens' motto is Nos bras meurtris vous tendent le flambeau; à vous toujours de le porter bien haut, which means "To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high." It is taken from the John McCrae poem "In Flanders Fields," a memorial to Canadian soldiers killed during the First World War.