(Note: Some of this rambling was done in Saturday's Game Day Thread).
So using a travel voucher from a travel company and a buy one night, get the second for half off hotel offer, I was able to sink some money into tickets to the Canadiens game Saturday night. Nothing like a 48-hour jaunt during Thanksgiving weekend for a road trip. Some things I learned after the jump:
(All images via my crappy phone)
The one thing you need to know and soak in when going to Montreal for a game: be prepared for history. A lot of it. As it should be, since the outside of Bell has statues of Richard, Beliveau and others. You get timelines and milestones inside along the concourse, and inside a Ring of Honor, featuring more of Robinson, Blake and even Rod Langway adorns the ring in the 400 level.
The marketing campaign is "I Am." So you get "I Am Elmer Lach," "I Am Serge Savard," but you also get "I Am Kyle Chipchura" to balance out the history. The latter dampens the former two, but it gives you goosebumps nonetheless.
The coolest thing, by far, is a pregame reel which shows the names of all 775 Habs players displayed on a on-ice scroll, with selective pausing on some names through the years and highlights on the jumbotron. While it may be one of the few times where Jeff Hackett and Georges Vezina are in the same context, the effects of it all, set to "Viva La Vida," is awesome. I loved it. That leads me to point two:
The music selection is outstanding. Aside from some of the Francophone stuff, my ears picked up "Fix You," several pre-Black Album Metallica songs, and as warm-ups started, "Eminence Front" by The Who. I love your hip music choices Montreal. Several other rapid-fire things in no order:
- When in concessions, get a smoked meat sandwich. Just do it (This goes for the whole on Montreal, but that's another story). If I could adopt one and have brought it back across the border, I would have. In between that and the hot dogs on buttered toast with relish, plan accordingly.
- The seats themselves, particularly in the pics you're seeing, don't have a lot of legroom. I sit one section over (in 117) in the same row as the seats here, and it feels like an Economy Plus flight compared to the Bell seats.
- The fans themselves are nice though some are cut from the Cherry cloth a little bit. This night had them wonder why Alex Ovechkin wasn't suspended for the Paleta hit, for instance, and speculating about the way he plays and whether he's headhunting. On a related note, there are a lot of Ovechkin and Mike Green jerseys in the stands (along with a Mathieu Perreault one and an Andrew Gordon practice jersey(?)). There are lots of people who are fans of the players who aren't so much fans of the team. There were even a few folks I met who made the trip up from DC and enjoyed the environment.
On the environment, the crowd is loud. For as much exposure we've had to VC crowds and their sound, the Bell Centre faithful yell significantly on blown penalties and dawdling power plays like every other place more than other arenas, but the goals are an explosion of sound like few you're liable to hear. You're almost left humbled by it. Now in the defense of the Caps, the Habs' revenue stream is like gold-plated gold, so there's no need to throw in quick ads or sponsorships for power plays or more than 5 goals scored to rev up the crowd (at least, not that I noticed). Everyone sings the anthem, everyone is boisterous when a successful PK, everyone is into the game, rather than the spectacle of just being there.
There are a couple of points of observation about the crowd which have reinforced some underlying opinions I had. First, the passionate cheering of the Quebecoise and Francophone players more than other players is there, though not as much as I would have presumed. And second, the booing of blown calls, and hearing a fan actually say that the Habs are "always getting screwed" prompts me to say this one more time, with feeling: officiating is subjective. When it goes against you, many tend to think it's a conspiracy, no matter how big your trophy case is. But it's your ability to rise up past it that separates the skin from the pudding.
But ultimately, you know the best part about going up to the Nexus of the NHL to watch your favorite team play in hostile territory? Sending the home crowd home sad. Thanks to Montreal for a great atmosphere, but a larger thanks for the result goes to Bruce Boudreau and gang, and for a fun night.