Quebec Studies

Lieux de mémoire or Lieux du dollar?: Montreal's Forum, the Canadiens, and Popular Culture

Quebec Studies (2011), 51, (1), 21–40.

Abstract

21 Lieux de mémoire or Lieux du dollar?: Montreal's Forum, the Canadiens, and Popular Culture Amy J. Ransom Central Michigan University Pierre Nora's monumental work Les Lieux de mémoire (1984) reexamines the relationship between history and memory in contemporary France's identi­ fication of "sites for anchoring its memory" ("Between" 9). In addition to the obvious choices — village war memorials, the palace at Versailles, the Eiffel Tower — Nora and his contributors consider non-architectural "sites of memory," such as the national motto of "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" and the blue, white, and red colors of the national flag. This essay examines a quite different bleu, blanc, et rouge, the colors of the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens, along with their hallowed monument, the Montreal Forum. As the storied franchise celebrated its centennial in 2009, both scholars and pop artists represented these icons as lieux de mémoire, demonstrating the illustrative power of hockey as a metaphor for national unity and identity, Canadian or Québécois. At the same time, these texts re­ veal that the ties that bind may also divide, as battles on the ice just as often depict national rivalries between Québec and "The Rest of Canada." This essay examines three popular culture texts that remain un­ studied either because of their newness (two songs released in 2008) or their marginal status in relation to Québec literary institutions (a science-fiction story). These particular works, in spite of some marked stylistic differ­ ences, all exploit the lieux de mémoire of the Canadiens and /or the Montreal Forum in this ambivalent manner, seeking to elide the contradictions in­ herent in the invocation of a sports franchise and an architectural venue — both capitalist enterprises from the private sector — as sources of a local or national identity. Loco Locass's rap-pop anthem "Le But (à la gloire de nos Glorieux)" pays unquestioning homage to the storied NHL franchise, while the neo-traditional group, Mes Aïeux's "Le Fantôme du Forum" offers a somewhat more pointed view of the team's move to the Molson (now Bell) Centre. That song shares a title, as well as a critical attitude toward com­ mercialism in hockey, with a science-fiction story written in a completely different socio-political context, Jean-Pierre April's post-Referendum "Le Fantôme du Forum" (1981). Recent academic examinations of hockey, such as Les Yeux de Maurice Richard (Melançon 2006; Trans. 2009), La Religion du Canadien de Montréal (Bauer and Barreau 2009) and La Vraie Dureté du mental (Baillargeon and Boissinot 2009), reinforce the identification of hockey as a distinct aspect not only of Canadian, but of a specifically Québécois na­ tional identity. The following analysis examines how these and other texts promote the notion of the Montreal Forum and the Canadiens as lieux de mémoire, while at the same time, some of these texts suggest these institu­ tions to be instead lieux du dollar. Québec Studies, Volume 51, Spring/Summer 2011

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Ransom, Amy