The Montreal Canadiens ice hockey club, formally Le Club de Hockey Canadien, was founded on December 4, 1909. The Canadiens are the oldest professional hockey franchise in the world. Created as a founding member of the National Hockey Association (NHA) with the aim of appealing to Montreal's francophone population, the Canadiens played their first game on January 5, 1910, and captured their first Stanley Cup in 1916. The team left the NHA and helped found the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1917. They returned to the Stanley Cup finals in 1919, but their series against the Seattle Metropolitans was canceled without a winner due to the Spanish flu pandemic that killed defenceman Joe Hall. The Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup 24 times: once while part of the National Hockey Association (NHA), and 23 times as members of the NHL. With 25 NHL titles overall, they are the most successful team in league history.
The Canadiens' home rink, the Montreal Arena, was destroyed by fire in January 1918. The team moved into the Jubilee Arena, which subsequently burned down in 1919. After spending seven seasons in the Mount Royal Arena, the Canadiens moved into the Montreal Forum in 1926, sharing it with the rival Montreal Maroons until 1938. After 72 years in the Forum, they moved to the Bell Centre in 1996. The club struggled during the Great Depression, nearly relocating to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1935 and contemplated suspending operations in 1939. Their fortunes rebounded following World War II as they reached the Stanley Cup finals each year from 1951 to 1960, winning six championships, including a record five consecutive titles from 1956 to 1960.