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Montreal Forum was Taj Mahal of NHL
'Most storied building in hockey history' lived up to billing in Fischler's 1954 visit
The Forum, home of the Montreal Canadiens, was a must-see for every hockey fan, even in the early 1950s.
In 1953-54, the Taj Mahal of hockey was home to the defending Stanley Cup champions. For me, it was a chance to see the greatest goal-scorer in NHL history, Maurice "Rocket" Richard of the Canadiens, in his swashbuckling prime. As a fan, listening to Canadiens home broadcasts by Doug Smith over CBM Radio in Montreal, I always was gripped by the crowd noise whenever Richard scored. The decibel count reached a higher-than-high level, and I wanted to be there in the Forum at least once when it happened.
On my first-ever airline flight in January 1954, I traveled with my buddy, Bernie Wolk, in a Colonial Airlines four-engine DC-4 prop plane out of New York's LaGuardia Airport. For a nervous, first-time flyer like me, the trip was more exciting than a ride on Coney Island's Cyclone roller coaster. Fortunately, the Cyclone and our DC-4 shared a common theme -- each got to its destination safely.
Bernie and I celebrated our arrival with a robust French-Canadian meal before we visited The Hockey News office. Publisher Ken McKenzie, who later hired me as a writer, gave us a royal welcome. We took some photos, talked hockey and then got directions to the Forum, which was a short walk from Ken's office.
My first view of the Canadiens' home, at Atwater Street and Ste. Catherine Street West, was exciting from a historic aspect alone -- The Sporting News had called the Forum "The most storied building in hockey history." It had been home to such NHL legends as Georges Vezina, Howie Morenz and Bill Durnan, and the fact that we were going to see a power-packed Detroit Red Wings team play the Canadiens added to our anticipation.