Golden Molson

By Jason Santerre

Meet Geoff: Businessman, hockey dad, proud Montrealer

Take one historic hockey team, add the country’s oldest brewery and multiply that by 227 years spent helping build a city along the shores of the St. Lawrence, and you get a very distinguished family tree. The Molson family’s roots run deep here. So it’s with a mix of awe and intrigue that your faithful editor finds himself in Geoff Molson’s corner office atop the Bell Centre. Within moments of meeting the owner of the Montreal Canadiens, it’s clear that despite the wealth, power and fabled genealogy, Geoff Molson is one of us: a hockey-mad family man in love with the city we all call home.

Montréal enSanté catches up with Mr. Molson on the morning he is scheduled to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $1.4 million rink at Confederation Park in NDG. It is the latest outdoor rink built by the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation as part of the Bleu Blanc Bouge program promoting healthy lifestyles for kids. “The vision from the beginning was to build outdoor rinks equipped with everything from pucks and nets to the zamboni,” says Molson. “The priority is to get kids active, and so far we’re seeing a 70 percent participation rate in the other boroughs.”

Tomorrow, Mr. Molson will take part in Bell Media’s Let’s Talk anti-stigma campaign. The Montreal Canadiens, along with the NHL, joined forces to help promote open discussion about mental illness. Of course, when it comes to philanthropy, most Montrealers associate the hockey club with the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Since 1964, members of the Canadiens team have visited with sick kids, boosting spirits and creating smiles, every December.

It’s a holiday tradition that affects a lot of lives. “I was born there, so my connection started right away,” says Molson, who tells of a time when he was 16, and a friend had passed away from brain cancer. “We raised money through a benefit concert to help purchase a machine that was needed, a machine that’s probably out of date now, 26 years later. But that experience instilled something in me.”

Today, Mr. Molson is quite clear about his love for les glorieux. His family has been involved with the team in some capacity since 1957. Bleu, blanc, rouge is part of his DNA. “I think the big advantage that I have coming into it is that I understand what it’s like to be a fan, I understand the media’s mandate, how the players operate. You don’t come into something like this and rock the boat.”

It’s been smooth sailing so far. “We’ve got exciting rookies mixed with veteran players who’ve been with the team for some time. That’s an advantage when you want the players to feel like they’re part of a family,” he says. As for his own family—a wife and four children—Molson spends as much of his free time with them as possible. “All of my kids play hockey so I skate with them, and I try to join a garage league when I can,” says the former college d-man.

Molson says the ambiance this season reminds him a lot of the glory days of the 1970s. It’s a fun, family atmosphere that reminds him of his youth. “Every year we’d skate at the Forum for the family Christmas party. I remember skating with Serge Savard’s son, taking slapshots with young gun Chris Nilan, and then stealing Steve Shutt’s stick. He was my favourite player,” says Molson of those heady days.

“There really is something special about the Montreal Canadiens. It’s like the people’s mood is dictated by the success of the team. I don’t think religion is the right word. It’s more like a ritual,” he says. “Fans believe that it’s their team and when they go and watch their team they wear the same shoes or the same shirt they wore the last time the team won. So far, my shoes have not been beaten.”

Spring 2013, Vol 5 N°2

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