MONTREAL – Former Montreal Canadiens general manager and longtime municipal politician Irving Grundman is being remembered for his contribution to the team and to the city.
Grundman, who was the Canadiens’ GM from 1978-1983, died at age 92 after a short illness on Feb. 26.
A butcher’s son born in Montreal on July 23, 1928, Grundman began working in the meat industry with his father before co-founding the Laurentian Lanes bowling alleys in Montreal, Ottawa and Kingston in 1959, a business that still exists today.
In 1968, he began his 35-year career as a city councillor in St. Laurent. He was later executive chairman of the St. Laurent Technoparc and is credited with attracting major companies to establish there. For the Jewish community, he helped Congregation Beth Ora in its expansion.
Grundman became an executive for Peter and Edward Bronfman and, in 1972, a year after the Toronto-based brothers bought the Canadiens and their home, the Montreal Forum, they made him president of the facility, overseeing its business operations. These were golden years when the team won five Stanley Cup championships.
When Canadiens’ legendary GM Sam Pollock retired in 1978, Grundman, his pick, was appointed to replace him, a surprise to many because he had no hockey background as such. In Grundman’s second year in the position, the team won another Stanley Cup. But it would be the last during his tenure.
The team did make some inspired draft choices in that time, including future Hockey Hall of Famers Guy Carbonneau and Chris Chelios.
“In his first season as the Canadiens’ GM, his team posted a remarkable 52-17-11 record and 115 points in the standings, just one less than the League-leading New York Islanders,” said the Canadiens in a statement following Grundman’s death.
“Grundman’s team first swept the Leafs before eliminating the Bruins in a hard-fought seven-game series. The Habs then defeated the Rangers in five games to secure their first Stanley Cup win on home ice since 1968. As a result, Irving Grundman became one of just a select few general managers to etch his name on the Cup in his very first year on the job.
“Thanks for the memories, Irving, rest in peace.”
Ken Dryden, later a lawyer and MP, was the Canadiens’ star goaltender during this era. In his 2019 book Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other, about illustrious head coach Scotty Bowman, Dryden writes that because Grundman had no experience in managing a hockey team, Bowman “would run the team, having more say in personnel decisions and trades than he had before, and (Al) MacNeil would run the AHL (farm) team.
“Grundman would serve as the facilitator. He would be responsible for the administration of the organization. He would conciliate where necessary, but otherwise he would get out of the way and let Scotty and MacNeil do what they did so well.”
Grundman’s legacy was tarnished by a 2004 conviction for municipal corruption, and was sentenced to community service. He fulfilled that as a volunteer at the Jewish General Hospital, and continued quietly to give his time there long after he was required to do so.
A former member of the Beth Ora clergy, Rev. Amiel Bender recalled in a condolence on the Paperman funeral home website that Grundman was “a pleasant and gentle soul…We always greeted each other with a smile and he was full of support for my work and youth programs and was always open with the bowling alley for our fundraisers. We had pleasant conversations ranging from sports to religion.
“I remember that on one Rosh Hashanah in the synagogue I went to greet him and I had a strange request that he complied with. I asked him to let me wear his 1979 Stanley Cup ring for five minutes. He looked at me and smiled and said: ‘Sure Amiel! Enjoy!’…I always respected his ambition to pursue his interests and to make things work. May his memory be a blessing!”