20 years ago was the final hockey game in the old Forum
By: Stuart Nulman – mtltimes.ca
It was exactly 20 years ago this month that a chapter in the illustrious history of the Montreal Canadiens came to a close.
On March 11, 1996, after a home game between the Habs and the Dallas Stars (which Les Canadiens won by a score of 4-1), the Montreal Forum, the venerable hockey shrine that the Canadiens called their home since 1926, closed its doors after 72 years of hosting countless Maroons and Canadiens hockey games, not to mention wrestling and boxing matches, circuses, ice shows, special events and concerts of all kinds.
Montreal documentary filmmaker and photographer Ezra Soiferman was a college graduate at the time, and just so happened to be in attendance at that final game at the Forum. Armed with his camera, Soiferman decided to shoot a photographic chronicle of the Forum’s swan song. However, while most of the media assigned to cover the event opted for the action on the ice between the Habs and the Stars, and the emotional closing ceremonies immediately following the game (including the memorable standing ovation given to Maurice “Rocket” Richard), he decided to photograph the final game at the Forum from the point of view of the employees, the vendors, the action behind the scenes, and the fans in the stands. As Soiferman says, he was “more interested in the building’s soul than the building’s show.”
After he shot more than 250 images of what went on during this sad hockey milestone, they ended up being stored away in his garage. In the spring of 2014, during the Habs’ remarkable playoff run, Soiferman decided to dust off those photos he took at the Forum and after viewing them with a sense of pride and nostalgia, decided to make use of these photos and share them with the public, especially with the 20th anniversary of that final game just two years away.
The end result was Last Game at the Forum, an attractive 72-page limited edition hardcover book that features 65 of those images he shot during that March 11, 1996 game (in black & white and colour). The book was officially launched last March 11, exactly 20 years to the day that famous final game was played. And to coincide with the book’s release, an exhibition featuring some of the photos from the book was opened at Le Frame Shoppe’s Art Victoria Park exhibition space, which is located in the lobby of 376 Victoria Avenue in Westmount, which runs until March 25.
Looking at Soiferman’s photos that he featured in the book and exhibition certainly brought back a lot of fond memories of the Habs’ glory days at the Forum, especially those countless games I went to during the 70s, 80s and 90s (my first Canadiens game at the Forum was against St. Louis in January of 1970), and seeing the images of the vendors of those famous Forum hot dogs, the “A venir” board outside the building that listed upcoming hockey games and events, those sturdy old red seats, and the always enthusiastic fans (especially those 24 fans who were dressed as each of the Stanley Cups the Habs won), brought me back to those games that I experienced, and Soiferman certainly accomplished his mission of capturing the soul of the old Montreal Forum.
Also, Soiferman added that the response to book has been so overwhelming, that its first print run sold out almost immediately, and a second printing is on its way. And as an extra bonus, he said that if anyone spots themselves in any of the photos he took that are featured in the book or the exhibition, they will receive a free print of the photo in question (personally signed by Soiferman) as a token of his appreciation.
For more information about the book Last Game at the Forum, or about the photo exhibition, go to www.EzSez.com or: