Provincial plaque commemorates The Flying Frenchmen and Didier “Cannonball” Pitre

RENFREW – Today, the Ontario Heritage Trust, in partnership with the Town of Renfrew, unveiled a provincial plaque commemorating “The Flying Frenchmen,” three Francophone athletes who were part of the original Montreal Canadiens: Jean-Baptiste “Jack” Laviolette, Édouard “Newsy” Lalonde and Didier “Cannonball” Pitre.

Pitre (1883-1934) played for the Renfrew Creamery Kings (Renfrew Millionaires) before joining the Montreal Canadiens. This is the third provincial plaque recognizing the three players.

The provincial plaque reads as follows:


Professional hockey was in its infancy in the autumn of 1909 when the promoters behind the National Hockey Association, forerunner of the National Hockey League, created the Montreal Canadiens team to attract French-Canadian spectators. Belleville-born Jean-Baptiste “Jack” Laviolette was hired as the playing-manager and captain. Laviolette signed Cornwall’s Édouard “Newsy” Lalonde to play forward and recruited his friend Didier “Cannonball” Pitre from the Renfrew Creamery Kings (‘Renfrew Millionaires’) as a defenceman. This trio of francophone players formed the nucleus of the roster for several seasons and led the Canadiens to their first Stanley Cup championship in 1916. They played with such speed and finesse that sportswriters began calling them “The Flying Frenchmen,” establishing the Canadiens’ trademark playing style for generations. Laviolette retired in 1918, the Canadiens traded Lalonde to the Saskatoon Crescents in 1922 and Pitre retired in 1923. All three were later inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for their part in establishing a legendary hockey franchise.


“The Flying Frenchmen are a fine example of the excellence, dedication and teamwork that characterize Ontario’s sport heritage. Their legacy lives on in one of Canada’s most celebrated hockey teams, inspiring new generations of athletes and fans, and as role models to the Franco-Ontarian community.” – Professor Thomas H.B. Symons, Chair, Ontario Heritage Trust

"Ontario has been home to many unforgettable athletes whose achievements inspire Canadians of all ages. The Flying Frenchmen – Lalonde, Laviolette and Pitre – are part of our province’s great sport history and their success in the earliest days of professional hockey in Canada still resonates a century later. Many young hockey players dream of one day hoisting the Stanley Cup. In many ways those dreams began 100 years ago with the Flying Frenchmen, when they led the Montreal Canadiens to the team’s first Cup in 1916. I am proud that these hockey legends are now being honoured with a provincial heritage plaque.” – Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport

“We are proud of Renfrew’s rich hockey history and celebrate hockey teams, past and present, including the Renfrew Creamery Kings, Renfrew Millionaires and Renfrew Timberwolves. We are pleased to be the host site of a provincial plaque commemorating “The Flying Frenchmen” and Didier “Cannonball” Pitre.” – Tom Sidney, Renfrew Town Councillor/Recreation Committee Chair

Quick facts

  • The provincial plaque will be permanently installed at the Ma-Te-Way Activity Centre, 1 Ma-Te-Way Park Drive, Renfrew.
  • This is the third provincial plaque honouring “The Flying Frenchmen.” The first plaque, in recognition of Jean-Baptiste “Jack” Laviolette, was unveiled June 23, 2016 in Belleville, Ontario. The second plaque, in recognition of Édouard “Newsy” Lalonde, was unveiled July 21, 2016 in Cornwall, Ontario.
  • The Ontario Heritage Trust’s Provincial Plaque Program commemorates provincially significant people, places and events in Ontario’s history. Since 1956, 1,276 provincial plaques have been unveiled.

Learn more


For more information about the Ontario Heritage Trust and the Provincial Plaque Program, contact Kimberly Murphy at 416-325-5074 or

The Ontario Heritage Trust is an agency of the Government of Ontario dedicated to identifying, preserving, protecting and promoting Ontario’s heritage.

The Trust gratefully acknowledges the Ontario Office of Francophone Affairs for its assistance and the Department of Canadian Heritage for its financial contribution to this provincial plaque through the Canada-Ontario Agreement on French-Language Services.

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