The New York Islanders were at Montreal this Saturday, and so were a couple of the LongIsland.com Islander Experts. Since we all know how this game turned out (you would think since we traveled all this way, they could at least win for us) we will focus on the Centre Molson and hockey in Montreal.
Montreal - the hockey capital.
I was surprised when we reached Montreal that we did not see more Canadiens (or hockey in general) paraphernalia around the city. During one day in New York, I will see many pieces of hockey paraphernalia. Items on people's cars, hats, shirts, anything, and you must admit, New York is more of a baseball and football hotbed. In Montreal, we did not see one. We did see a couple of souvenir stores that had some Canadiens things in it, but that was purely for visitors. There were no indications of fan participation around the city. The only time we saw people wearing Canadiens clothes, was a little bit before and during the game. We also noticed that only a couple of people we saw were wearing jerseys. Most of them had just sweatshirts or hats. Also, on the first night, back in the hotel, we could not find any hockey game on TV. Now what's that??? We had everything else but hockey.... Basketball, football, curling, even mules pulling large bricks of concrete. But no hockey. Who would have thought!
Touring the Centre
During our trip we found out that the Centre offered guided tours of the rink, so we figured we would give it a look. For 8 bucks (Canadian, of course) you got a 30-45 minute tour of the Molson Centre. (We were lucky enough to be the only ones on the tour so we had all our questions answered) This stadium puts the Coliseum to shame. They have 2 levels of luxury boxes, with one set in between the 200 and 300 seat levels. These would be great boxes, making you feel like you are part of the crowd, not secluded up in the rafters. They have microphones on the ice, so that almost everything can be heard. The chairs are much more cushy, and there is more legroom. The top level, the 400s did seem quite steep. They had bars in front of every seat for everyone to hold on to when they stood up. Pretty scary, but I guess if they can get people to sit there, why not? There is a separate catwalk around the top of the arena for the press to sit at. Complete with phones, data ports and televisions. They have a birds eye view of the ice to watch the play, without interfering with the sight of the people in the upper levels. They have a Canadiens hall of fame, with busts of special players in their history and short descriptions. They even have pieces from the dressing room from the Old Forum behind glass in the main lobby. We were brought thru the press conference room, and the studio where they shoot "Hockey Night in Canada". We also saw the wifes lounge and the alumni lounge. The wife's lounge is 4 of 5 times larger than the Islander dressing room. Enough said. We were not brought into the Canadiens locker room, they were just finishing up practice and players were lingering. There also were the little things that made this place a superb arena. The painting of a Canadiens goalie making a save along the top rim of the arena, a Canadiens logo on the mat they roll out for the anthem singer. It was things like those that made the arena a special place. Oh yeah... what does the H in the Canadiens logo stand for? Check at the end of the article for the answer.
Well, we all know how that turned out. On the fan side, it was quite an experience. Before the game, we went to the hotel bar and played some pool, while wearing our jerseys. Some Montreal fans came in and called us traitors. They said that the team is so bad now that all the Montreal fans wear the other teams jerseys. We told them we were not traitors, that we were Islander fans all the time. They were okay with that. After we finished a couple of games of pool, we went over to the Centre. First of all, they welcome people to go down to the ice and watch warm-ups. Who would have thought! If you do that in the coliseum, the usher in 118x would beat you with a baseball bat and then ask for a tip. So we stood at the ice during warm-ups, and of course Czerk waved and winked at us. I wonder if he recognized us. Kudos to Rick DiPietro who threw me a puck over the glass; baaaah to the other Islander Fan who ripped it out of my hand. Practice ended, and we went back to our seats. There were Islander fans everywhere! We were amazed at the number of them. We knew that the Islander Booster Club were going to be in attendance, but forgetting about them there were more Islander fans all over the place. I guess it is easier for the upstate fans to go to Montreal to catch a game. We were sitting in the last row before some luxury boxes. We stood and cheered for the Islander goals, and the people in the luxury box started to taunt us for every Montreal goal. During the second period, they handed over what else, but some Molson to us for being good sports. Then, for the last 15 minutes of the game, on every minute marker, they sang the "Hey hey goodbye" song. It was quite funny, we found it amusing how relentless they were, I mean, they stink as much as we do. The Montreal fans around us did not. They were turning around giving the luxury box people dirty looks. Some even left. We just laughed; we've sat thru Ranger games, it could be worse.
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So what does the H stand for in the Canadiens logo?
HOCKEY of course... you thought you were all slick thinking Les Habitants... well, we thought we were.