The Early Days of the QMJHL


The early years of the Q were filled with both turmoil and success. After winning only three Memorial Cup titles since 1919, all of a sudden the new Major Junior league won two more in its first three years of existence, with the Quebec Remparts taking the title in 1970-71 and the Cornwall Royals following up in 1971-72. However, many of the newly-promoted franchises couldn't meet the financial demands of the new league. Laval folded after only one year in operation, and the Rosemont National moved to Laval to take up residence in the same Colisée de Laval home the next year, 1971. 1972 witnessed the folding of the Verdun Maple Leafs and the St-Jérôme Alouettes. Also in 1972, the nascent league welcomed back a team in the heart of Montreal, as the old Junior Canadiens were ushered back in from the Ontario league, although the terms of their move were such that the team had to change its name. (The team was officially "suspended" from the OHL and recreated as an expansion team, even though the ownership, arena, and players remained the same.) They became the Montreal Bleu, Blanc et Rouge (Blue, White and Red) and played out of the legendary Montreal Forum.

In 1973, the league expanded outside the narrow Montreal-Quebec City corridor for the first time, adding two franchises that would become cornerstones of the league. To the north, the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, playing out of the Colisée de Chicoutimi, joined the fray, while to the west, the Hull Festivals (later Olympiques) began playing out of the Hull Arena. That same year, the Shawinigan Bruins renamed themselves to the Shawinigan Dynamos. A year later, the Drummondville Rangers folded, while the Trois-Rivieres Ducs became the Draveurs (lumberjacks or raftmen). The name changes continued in 1975 and 1976, first with the Montreal Bleu Blanc et Rouge becoming the shorter Montreal Juniors, and then with the Hull Festivals becoming the Olympiques. In 1978 the Shawinigan Dynamos renamed again, becoming the Cataractes, after the famous Shawinigan Falls.

Franchise moves continued through the later 1970's. The Sorel Éperviers moved to the Montreal suburb of Verdun in 1977, but moved back to Sorel around Christmas-time in 1979. One would assume that mid-season moves are done purely on an emergency basis, but I don't know why they did it in this way. In 1979 the Laval National became the Laval Voisins (neighbours). The Montreal Juniors, meanwhile, were struggling to draw fans in the Montreal Forum, and moved for 1978-79 to the Maurice Richard Arena, and then the next year, to Rosemont's Paul Sauvé Arena.

To continue to the middle years of the QMJHL, click here.

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