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Canadiens Tribute: Pierre Houde Represents The Best Of Us



Montreal Canadiens pierre houde

A voice synonymous with the Montreal Canadiens organization was recently named the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner, as Pierre Houde was recognized for his outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.

And while there’s certainly no doubt Houde deserves the recognition, his impact on the hockey-crazed province that is Quebec may not be particularly evident to all Canadians.

Taking Over From A Legend

Admittedly, I have been blessed when it comes to play-by-play announcers. Starting in the mid-80s, I would sneak a radio into bed to hear the third period of Montreal Canadiens games, which took place well beyond my designated bedtime every time La Soirée du hockey (Hockey Night in Canada) rolled around.

The voice that greeted me belonged to none other than René Lecavalier, arguably the best play-by-play man in hockey history, and at the very least an equal to Foster Hewitt, the man who enthralled millions of English fans with his classic calls of memorable hockey plays.

Lecavalier was honoured as the inaugural Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner in 1994, a well-deserved honour for a broadcaster who approached his job with a certain sense of pride and commitment. He won the award alongside Hewitt himself, not to mention Danny Gallivan, another great voice born from the undeniable cultural link that bonds Canadians with their favourite sport.

But if the award was named after a Francophone, it would carry Lecavalier’s name.

Consequently, when Lecavalier retired, there was a sense of apprehension among fans as to who would carry the torch.

Who could replace his iconic goal call, “Il lance… et compte!”? (He shoots… and scores!)

Not only was Lecavlier woven into the fabric of French hockey broadcasting, he was the Shakespeare of the sport. Or perhaps more appropriately, he was the Moliere of his industry, as he not only spearheaded the creation of a bevy of new French terms to describe the sport, but he also delivered them with perfect timing and grace.

The person tasked with taking over from Lecavalier would have to convince an entire generation of fans that he was worthy of taking over from a true hockey legend in a market that venerates the greats to the nth degree.

Enter Pierre Houde

It did not take long for fans to decide Pierre Houde would be a worthy successor.

For the most part, Houde lets the crowd tell the tale, a lost art in an industry that focuses on sensationalism in its broadcasts.

But every once in a while, his silky-smooth calls would feature a crescendo of raw energy, culminating with his classic goal call that is well-known among all hockey fans in North America, regardless of their maternal tongue.

“Il tire….et le BUUUUUUUUUUUT!”

The same sentence can be heard during road hockey games and shinny matchups throughout the province over the last four decades. If you score a goal that deserves attention, you must reference Houde’s classic call.

Think about that for a moment.

Rather than referencing the many legends that have graced the Montreal Canadiens organization with their greatness, fans will defer to the man who paints the perfect picture of every play.

And the tribute is not limited to Francophones.

Ask around and you’ll find that many Anglophones are quick to reference Houde’s work, yet another feather in his impressive cap.

Beyond Backgrounds

Discussing language is a tricky subject, particularly in Quebec.

I don’t wish to delve into the cultural divides, or the important part hockey plays in maintaining our language as the most crucial aspect of our French-Canadian heritage.

But I would like to point out that the vast majority of fans have a story that eternally links them to Houde.

And that includes fans on both sides of the language spectrum.

Francophones will discuss their favourite goal calls, or their most cherished Houdisms, such as “un rififi” or “brasse camarade” whenever the players on the ice engage in some extracurricular activities.

Ma parole!

Whereas English fans are quick to suggest Houde is someone who re-introduced them to the beauty that is the French language.

His concise, yet accurate calls avoid the pitfall of many play-by-play announcers who tend to shoe-horn contrived terms into their broadcasts.

Pierre Houde keeps things simple, yet eloquent.

This allows newcomers in Canada to pick up certain terms and words, which eventually leads to a better understanding of the language. Much like when immigrants would suggest Seinfeld helped them learn English in the United States, we can safely say Houde has seeded a love for the language among hundreds of thousands of new arrivals in the province, not to mention the country.

I can’t count the number of stories told to me by fans that involve their parents, themselves, or their children learning French thanks to Houde’s help.

This is one of the main reasons that he has become a beacon for the French language in Canada.

Improving The Industry

The level of respect for his work goes beyond fans.

Some of the most talented play-by-play announcers in the country are quick to acknowledge Houde’s impact on their careers, including Dan Robertson, who spent several years calling Canadiens games for TSN 690.

He’s clear as to the first thing that comes to mind when he thinks of Houde.

“Elegance,” said Robertson. “It goes beyond his work as a broadcaster. The way he carries himself, from the way he dresses to the way he talks to everyone, struck me right away. He’s kind to everybody. I always appreciate that, as a human being, that’s an important thing for me. ”

That’s the other side of the equation.

You won’t find a single person in the industry who will speak ill of Houde, a sign he’s one of the most affable characters in the history of Montreal Canadiens hockey.

Robertson, an Anglophone hailing from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, knew that Houde brought something special to the table from the very first time he heard him call a game.

“He has a presence,” said Robertson. “I worked every game in 2014, so I couldn’t watch him as often as I would have liked. But I started watching the one-hour condensed versions of games that would air on RDS every evening.

“I started to record those broadcasts so I could watch them every night. Even if I couldn’t speak the language, I could understand the beauty in his tempo and his build-up. It was almost like he was a conductor, and his symphony was the chaotic yet elegant action taking place on the Bell Centre ice.”

In many ways, Houde represents the purest form of play-by-play, something that quickly appealed to Roberston.

“I learned from him, even though I understood maybe three out of every 10 words, I knew what he was building toward. He doesn’t scream at you. He is a master at pacing and understanding the big moment. All the things we all should strive for.”

Canadiens Brass Tacks

The immersive style that Houle put into place will long be remembered in our sport, especially in Montreal and the surrounding areas.

But his grace is not limited to hockey.

I have fond memories of listening to him describe F1 races on Sunday mornings, one of the rare activities I shared with my father while I was growing up. I would sneak downstairs while everyone else in my family was asleep and turn on the TV, which would be my father’s sign to finally emerge from his office, where he spent the majority of his time while he was at home behind a closed door.

Houde’s siren call was one of the few things that would make him forget about work for a brief moment.

Once again, Houde managed to mount a beautiful tableau while understanding that he was there to improve the race-day experience, not steal the spotlight from the athletes in question.

It’s this effortless, yet professional approach to the job that has garnered him such respect in the industry.

Whether you speak English or French, there’s a very strong chance that Pierre Houde has influenced you in some capacity, and more importantly, he has been a positive influence, both when it comes to putting the French language in the spotlight and improving the bond with the sport we all love.

There are many ways to explain Houde’s impact.

But there’s only one way to really drive the point home, and in the interest of honouring his work, we’ll keep it concise, yet accurate.

Pierre Houde is a living legend who should be considered one of our most important ambassadors to both the sport of hockey and the French language.

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I’ll still blast out my best “Il tire….et le BUUUUUUUUUUUT!” after every Habs goal. Drives my wife nuts. 😂


Too bad you did not mention his recently departed icon of his brother Paul and expand a bit more on how such a great family the Houde’s are.

I hope you do a 4 part series on those 2.

Pierre is class personified and he would tell anybody that he (and the rest of us) only possessed 1% of his brother’s brain and beauty.