Montreal Canadiens Francis Bouillon, left, with season ticket holder Mike Flinker. When Mike Flinker’s father bought season tickets at the Montreal Forum in 1942 the pair of seats cost him $50 for the year. The prices have changed and so has the venue, but the Flinker family has hung on to its Canadiens’ season-tickets for six decades.
Photograph by: Courtesy of Mike Flinker
MONTREAL — When Mike Flinker’s dad first bought Canadiens season tickets, Dick Irvin Sr. coached the team and the famous “Punch Line” had yet to be created.
The pair of tickets overlooking centre ice at the Forum cost $25 for 25 home games in 1942, Flinker said.
Fast forward 71 years. Season tickets now cost thousands of dollars and the Canadiens have played at the Bell Centre for 17 years.
But what hasn’t changed is a family tie to the season tickets Issie Flinker held for decades.
Flinker, who passed away in 1989 at age 74, had the season-ticket contract transferred to his son Mike a few years before he died.
Habs season-ticket holders have also been known to bequeath their tickets in their wills. The Canadiens don’t have precise records about season tickets that go way back, but said some families might have tickets dating back to the 1930s and ’40s.
Mike Flinker was one of the long-time season-ticket holders honoured by the team in 2008. A team ticket representative at the time told him they were the second oldest subscriber in the building. Flinker was introduced to the Bell Centre crowd as part of the initiative alongside Canadiens defenceman Francis Bouillon.
“Bouillon asked me how long I’d had the tickets for,” said Flinker, who was 51 at the time.
“I said since 1942. And he said: ‘You look really good for your age.’”
Flinker says his father, who worked in the textile business, was a huge hockey fan.
“He was there in the glory days,” Flinker said.
His dad was also at the Forum on St. Patrick’s Day 1955, when the Richard Riot broke out.
The Flinker family lived in Snowdon and their father used to leave for games five to eight minutes before the opening faceoff and get there on time, recalled Howie Flinker, Mike’s older brother, who lives in New York City.
Their father lost interest in the game as the National Hockey League expanded beyond the Original Six teams in 1967. He felt the game became too diluted, Mike Flinker said.
“He saw hockey in its prime with six great teams,” Mike added.
Mike took over the tickets in 1987 with his business parters at FLS Transportation Services Inc., the company he co-founded with them. They typically give tickets to clients and employees. The seats, located in the reds, cost close to $20,000 a season, including playoff tickets, he said.
Flinker splits playoff tickets with his partners.
“We don’t send clients to the playoffs,” he laughed.
It was harder to unload the tickets last season when the Canadiens finished last in the Eastern Conference.
“Nobody wanted to go,” said Flinker, who attends a maximum of 10 games a season.
While he calls hockey a religion here, Flinker joked: “I think last year people became atheists.”
The hockey highlights for Flinker over the years include the legendary New Year’s Eve game in 1975, when the Canadiens and the Soviet Red Army team battled to a 3-3 tie, and the 1987 Canada Cup. The best Canadiens team he’s seen was the one that won four consecutive Stanley Cups in the 1970s, especially the one that lost only eight games in the 1976-77 season.
His favourite Canadiens players include Jean Béliveau, Guy Lafleur and Henri Richard. Among the players Flinker likes from the team’s current roster is rookie Brendan Gallagher.
“He plays with such inspiration ... he seems to get in everybody’s way.”
A father of four, Flinker plans on ensuring the season tickets stay in the family.
He credits Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien with doing a “phenomenal job” and calls hockey exciting again.
And with the Canadiens holding six picks in the first three rounds of June’s NHL entry draft, Flinker predicts: “We’re going to have a real powerhouse down the road.”
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