Thursday, January 22, 2009

Go Habs Go

Before leaving for this year’s hockey road trip, I contacted the folks at the All Habs blog to learn more about Montreal and the Canadiens. To thank them for their suggestions, I agreed to write about my experiences and give my perspective of the Habs and the Bell Centre as someone visiting the arena for the first time. I’ll start by writing this: the Bell Centre has the greatest hockey atmosphere I have ever seen in person.

It starts when you first walk into the arena. Almost everyone wears a Canadiens jersey or T-shirt. When you enter the seating area, you are amazed by the dozens of banners commemorating the Stanley Cup titles and retired players.

This has to be intimating or perhaps inspiring for the Habs’ opponents. At the very least, it is significantly more impressive than the WBNA Attendance Leader banners hanging from the Verizon Center in Washington. The introduction prior to the game is terrific. About 15 minutes before the opening face-off, the scoreboard shows pictures of Canadian fans wearing jerseys or showing off a Habs towel or flag from all over the world such as the Great Wall in China and by the Sydney Opera House. Then, the scoreboard shows each individual player and some videos of Montreal greats. Of course, the crowd cheered for all of this with the loudest applause reserved for goalie Carey Price. Unfortunately, Price was injured and didn’t play in either of the two Montreal games I saw.

The Good:
- The crowd was loud and chanted Go Habs Go or the Olay, Olay, Olay, Olay song constantly throughout the game.
-Cool Zambonis

- The Canadiens are a fun team to watch. I forgot how great it is to see Alexei Kovalev with the puck.
- Robert Lang is such a solid player. He had two assists each in the two games I saw him play.
- Gregory Stewart – I don’t think he was even on the team in the first game. He brings a lot of energy and is someone that really stood out. I’d like him on my fourth line.
- Andrei Kostitsyn had goals in both games and could be on his way to becoming a superstar.
- Youppi

The Not So Good:
- There were way too many people and sections trying to start the wave. The wave was great 20 years ago; not so much today.
- Tomas Plekanec is useless. How is he on the first line with Kovalev?
- Tickets were far more expensive than those in Ottawa and Toronto.
- Georges Laraque was injured and didn’t play.
- From my seat in Section 334, Row FF, I couldn’t see anything in the lower corner to the left of the goalie.

The Other:
- I had recommendations to visit Le Keg in Old Montreal for dinner. While I didn’t eat there (we walked into the restaurant, but then had to move the car since we parked in a reserved area), we ate at Steak Frites instead. Great steak and service! By the way, Le Keg is a chain. It seems like it is the Canadian version of Outback or Lonestar.
- It was so freaking cold in Montreal! I’m never going there in January again!
- The Canadiens had a feature during a commercial break where they asked each player what they were secretly afraid of. Unfortunately, the players all answered in French so I’ll never know what scares Maxim Lapierre.
- I was expecting to hear Celine Dion and Nickelback during every stoppage of play. However, it turns out that they played a lot of music by other Canadian musicians like the Rolling Stones, U2, Linkin Park and Flo Rida.

By the way, attending a Maple Leafs game in Toronto was the exact opposite. More on that another time.

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