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The smell is in the air, folks. It’s hockey season. That means early mornings with the kids, late nights with the buddies and a whole lot of water cooler trash talk for the next 8 months. Those of you who know me on a personal level know that I’m a big hockey fan and a true Canadien at heart. Since I was a little tike, the red, white and blue “C” has always been a source of inspiration for me. Some of my fondest memories in life encompassed the Montreal Canadiens.

To me the Habs brand is tradition, and when a brand becomes tradition, the stronghold it has on you cannot easily be broken. It becomes a part of who you are. It can even help define who you are.

As a kid in elementary school, I remember going to the library every week and taking out the same book over and over again until I was told to pick something different. It was a book on the Montreal Canadiens. It featured all of the superstars that I would admire every Saturday night tuning into Hockey Night In Canada with my father. I would go through the pages in awe of all these great players hoisting the Stanley Cup, dreaming some day that would be me. I would live that fantasy every summer playing ball hockey with my friends. We would debate for the first 30 minutes who was going to be the Montreal Canadiens and then who was going to be which player.

It was a donnybrook just to decide who was going to be Chris Nilan.

Another wonderful memory I treasure was on October 31, 1981, when my dad took me to my first NHL game in the old Forum in Montreal. I was almost 10 years old at the time and I can still remember the electric feeling in the building when the Canadiens got on the ice. I knew I was in the building that many great champions had played. The history in that building was even overwhelming for a young boy. That night they faced Billy Smith and the New York Islanders. Although they lost 2-1, the experience of watching my hockey hero Guy Lafleur and being there with my dad still tugs at my heart over 30 years later.

I had the privilege of carrying on my father’s legacy in 2006 and took my 10 year old son to his first NHL game at the Bell Centre. Ironically enough, the Canadiens were playing the New York Islanders. The city of Montreal was painted in red white and blue. You could hear constant chatter about the game and you were being solicited at every street corner by scalpers trying to sell rare tickets to the game. Everywhere you looked fans were proudly sporting their team colors. The priceless expression of joy on my son’s face when the teams took the ice, was like an instant flashback of my youth.

 

We didn't have iPhones or tablets to play with. We had REAL toys like Lite Brite, that could burn your house down.

Autographed jerseys, hockey cards of your favourite players, hats, toques, gloves, key chains, flags, posters… anything you can imagine is in reach for all fans who associate themselves with this brand. What is it about this brand – Les Canadiens -that causes people to cheer, cry or even riot? Players have come and gone, retired, been traded away and yet fans remain loyal to the brand.

I can answer that question very easily. It’s the emotional connection that the brand delivers. For me, the Montreal Canadiens was my Dad’s team. What son doesn’t want to be like his father? It then becomes a passion that is transcended from generation to generation. Letting go of that brand to adopt another would be like disowning who I am. The Montreal Canadiens understand this emotional connection. I remember one year their corporate positioning was “The Tradition Continues”.

Be real, be known and be there. Let your brand emotionally penetrate the core being of your audience and that brand loyalty and passion will traditionally live on.

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