Hockey is an integral part of life in Montreal, there's no denying that. And when a Montrealer think about hockey, one name instantly pops up: The Montreal Canadiens.
And of course the Habs dominate the hockey-mindset of Montrealers, they are the city's team, after all.
But it wasn't always quite like that.
Well before the Montreal Canadiens were founded in 1909, several hockey teams called Montreal homes. Many had already even held a few Stanley Cups, years before the Habs won their first series in 1915.
Don't believe me? Want to find out more about Montreal's hockey history? The read on for 5 Montreal Hockey Teams Who Won The Stanley Cup Before The Habs.
The Montreal Victorias
It doesn't get much older than the Victoria Hockey Club of Montreal, an amateur ice hockey club that dates back to 1874, or 1881, depending on the source. Either way, the Victorias are among the first organized hockey clubs ever, just behind McGill University's.
Playing out of the Victoria Skating Rink, the Victorias won the somewhat newly christened Stanley Cup in 1895, and remained the cup's holder 'til 1899, barring a brief defeat in 1896.
Founders of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, and the Canadian Amateur Hockey League, the Victorias also played in the NHL, and won the cup in 1926 and 1935. By 1939, however, the Victorias stopped playing as a team, but not before becoming the very first North American hockey team to tour Europe in 1927.
Another fun fact about the Victorias: some credit the team with being the first to make hockey pucks round in the 1880s, casting off the corners found on the original square pucks.
The Montreal Hockey Club
Nearly as old as the Victorias, the Montreal Hockey Club was an amateur hockey club that played together as far back as 1877, but weren't recognized as as a member of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association 'til 1884.
During the club's lifespan (1886-1932), the Montreal Hockey Club (sometimes known as the AAAs or Winged wheel) played in a lot of leagues, including the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, the Canadian Amateur Hockey League, the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association, and the Interprovincial Amateur Hockey Union, in that order.
Nicknamed the "Little Men of Iron" for their feisty nature and small stature, perhaps the biggest claim to fame for the MHC is the fact that they were the very first team to win the Stanley Cup in 1893. The MHC snagged the cup again the next year in 1894, and did the same in 1902 and 1903.
Eventually, many of the MHC's core players left the club to form another Montreal team in 1903, and the team's activity effectively ended nearly 30 years later after an ownership-switch. But while the MHC stop playing in 1932, the team's legacy lasted a while afterwards.
The Montreal Wanderers
So remember two seconds ago how I was talking about how members of the MHC went on to form another team? Well, that was the Montreal Wanderers, an amateur then professional hockey team founded on December 3rd, 1903.
The Montreal Wanderers continued the "Little Men Of Iron" nickname tradition that began with the MHC, and entered their first Stanley Cup game in 1904, only a year after being formed. Unfortunately, the game, played against Ottawa, ended in a 5-5 tie. The Wanderers then forfeited the series, as they only wanted a replay in Montreal, a wish that wasn't granted.
That first Stanley Cup match would actually spark a long rivalry between the Wanders and Ottawa, with the two teams bouncing the cup back and forth from 1903 to 1911, winning four series (1906, 1907, 1908, 1910) in total.
Unfortunately, shortly after the NHL was created, the Wanderers met an untimely demise as a team. Losing all of their star players in 1918, followed by the destruction of their home rink (the Montreal Arena) by a huge fire, the Wanderers couldn't get any more players to join, and were forced to disband.
The Montreal Maroons
Many may not know that the Canadiens were originally created to be a Montreal's Francophone hockey team, and the Montreal Maroons were their Anglophone counterparts. The Wanderers once held that role, a mantle the Maroons took when they were founded in 1924.
Playing in the NHL 'til 1938, the Maroons won two Stanley Cups in their rather short career, in 1926 and 1935, respectively. What forced the Maroons to meet such an untimely end? A lack of budget, basically, as the Great Depression forced the Maroons to stop playing, and the franchise was officially shut down in 1947.
Fun fact: the Montreal Forum (now the Cineplex Forum) was originally built specifically for the Maroons in 1924, as the team needed an arena for them to play in.
Also, yes, I am aware that the Maroons won their Stanley Cups after the Habs, but hey, 1 out of 5 ain't bad.
The Montreal Shamrocks
Going back a bit in the city's hockey history, the Montreal Shamrocks were an amateur men's hockey club formed in 1886, a byproduct of the Montreal Shamrocks lacrosse club.
First playing in the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, the Shamrocks went on the become a pro team, playing a season in the proto-NHL otherwise known as the National Hockey Association in 1910. But, due to a lack of funds, the Shamrocks had to go back to being an amateur team, playing in the Montreal City Hockey League (after a brief stint in the Inter-provincial Amateur Hockey Union) until the team disbanded in 1924.
But despite not being a team with quite a lot of accolades, the Shamrocks still managed to win the Stanley Cup twice, in 1899 and 1900.
Honourable Mentions: The Montreal Royals & The Montreal Crystals
Neither of these teams won the honour of becoming Stanley Cup holders, but they were still fairly prominent teams that operated in Montreal, and so deserve a mention.
The Royal Montreal Hockey Club, otherwise known simply as the Royals, was created in 1932, and held both junior and senior teams under its banner until the club folded in 1961.
The Crystals, on the other hand, were one of Montreal's first hockey clubs, founded in 1885 and in-operation 'til 1895. Also known as the Montreal Dominions and Montreal Crescents, as the team changed their name in 1890 and 91, the Crystals were eventually merged with the Shamrocks in 1895.