Canada Post plans to help the Habs change that perception.
To mark the team's 100th anniversary, the post office will issue for the first time a set of commemorative stamps containing actual moving images of the historic 500th goals of three of the team's biggest legends.
Using archival footage blended with sophisticated lens technology, the stamps feature two- to three-second clips that showing Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur scoring their landmark goals.
When the ultrathin plastic stamp is moved up and down or side to side, it provides the illusion of cinema-like movement.
Richard can be seen shooting the puck into the net and leaping with joy into Beliveau's arms. Beliveau is seen deftly sliding the puck into the corner of the goal, while Lafleur rifles a shot into the goal before heading to the players' bench for congratulations.
The stamps will be officially released Oct. 17 at a ceremony in Montreal that Canada Post officials hope will be attended by Beliveau, Lafleur and the family of Richard, who died in 2000.
Although the technology has been used by several other countries on stamps marking historic events — Olympic speedskating victories by the Dutch, an Austrian World Cup soccer goal — it is a first for Canada Post.
The post office has been waiting for several years for the right occasion to use the technology, said Jim Phillips, Canada Post's director of stamp services.
"What could be better than a special anniversary for Canada's most successful sports team?" he said. "We expect the stamps to be very popular."
A souvenir sheet containing the three motion stamps as well as eight stamps that alternate between two images depicting Canadiens' retired sweaters will sell for $9. Canada Post will print 375,000 of the sheets.
The post office will also issue six million regular 54-cent stamps featuring the Canadiens' logo taken from one of Richard's game-worn woollen sweaters. And it will offer "first-day covers" — envelopes on which postage stamps have been cancelled on their first day of issue — featuring the names of all 761 players who have suited up with the Habs since 1909.
But the motion stamps are likely to be the big attraction for collectors and fans.
The motion stamps were produced by Outer Aspect Ltd., the New Zealand-based firm that developed the specialized imaging technology and has made, or is making, similar stamps for half a dozen other countries.
To make the Canadiens' stamps, Outer Aspect took vintage film of the three goals and converted each into a series of individual frames.
"Many, many hours were spent enhancing the historical footage to make it just right for the stamps," Gilles Le Baud, an European executive for Outer Aspects, said in an e-mail.
The frames were then put on special lithographic plates and printed on the reverse side of piece of clear plastic made up of precisely-focused tiny lenses called lenticules.
A coating was placed on the back of the lens to make the image reflective rather than translucent. An adhesive-strip backing was applied to allow the stamps to stick, security features were added and the lenses customized to work with Canada Post's cancellation inks.
When the stamp is moved and each image slice comes into focus, it creates the illusion of movement that is not unlike what you'd see on an old TV screen, Phillips said.
"The human eye can only detect so much as the stamp is turned," according to Ian Hetherington, the stamp products manager at the Lowe Martin Group, the Ottawa-based printing company that managed the project.
"As you look at the image through each of the tiny lenses that make up the sheet, every frame changes" and gives the impression of movement.
Phillips says several innovations were developed to make the motion stamps usable in the postal system. He expects that more people will keep the stamps as souvenirs than actually stick them on envelopes and send them through the mail.
But ardent collectors often to prefer to have stamps that have been inked at a post office, especially on the day of issue.
Brian Wolfenden, store manager at Ian Kimmerly Stamps in Ottawa, said hockey stamps previously issued by Canada Post have been popular with collectors.
"I would expect these to have a very high retention with Habs fans," he said, "although maybe not with Leafs fans."
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