It was a cold middle of the week in Montreal, this will be one of many obstacles come hockey season (other than trying to get Scott Gomez to score goals). Even hockey hardcores like myself have their limits; to trek out for the game or watch online? I know it’s against the LA Kings but hockey is hockey. I have a stubborn streak in me, and I’m going to tough it out…three blocks from my friend’s apartment. It’s a bit of a hockey search when you’re on the Mile End/Outremont border, especially when you can’t drink for another week and its freezing. I did luck out on a familiar hotspot for sports and other warm delight: Cafe Romolo (272 Bernard West).
Normally there would be a bar review however I’m making an exception this entry. Last Friday, Pat Burns, former Canadiens and Leafs coach, passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. He lived the way he dealt with his disease: always fighting. He was a coach that never gave up, the kind of man when your team in down and entering the 3rd period, will do whatever it takes to come back and win it. This is why this Leaf/Habs match-up was significant. Both teams that have once been under the helm of Pat Burns wanted to win this one for the coach who would never let them quit. However, the Habs would give him the win as this game was in his backyard. Pat Burns grew up in St Henri, not too far from the Bell Centre but steps away from his old haunt The Montreal Forum.
Well, well, well. Been waiting for this rematch for a while. The day we finally play the Philadelphia Flyers. Hmm, the last time I remember watching the Habs play Philly it was 20 degrees outside, Ste Catherine’s was closed in case of a riot and I was wearing short shorts.Yes indeed, fond memories of the playoff run from last Spring however not so fond memories of the outcome. The Habs lost in five games and were on the outside looking in on what could have been. The Flyers lost the Cup, what a waste of a Stanley Cup slot. We return to the rematch and to a familiar haunt downtown: Brutopia. I chose this bar as it was one of my familiar playoff bars, it was also the one I went to for the Habs’ last playoff game. Let’s stir up some new good memories.
Another solid week for the Habs, with wins against original six nemesis Boston Bruins and the young and rebuilding Carolina Hurricanes. After the adventure at the last bar, I was looking for a change of pace. I was also craving some chicken wings. By the way, there’s a story kicking around about PK Subban at our last venue, something about drinking a glass of milk (or was he?) Will tell you what happened: Maxime Lapierre bought him a glass of milk at the bar the other night, and PK returned the favor by sending two shots of the frothy white stuff to the chirpy forward. Thanks Natalie for the full story.)
Another Méchant Mardi, in search of a bar to watch the game. Add ‘the month of no drink’ and it poses quite a challenge. On the verge of going to a sketchy bar when I got the call: “There’s a new bar on St Laurent!”. I ran in between TV time outs to join friends at Factory resto/bar to catch Montreal beat the Vancouver Canucks. I walked into the bar and immediately appreciated the good vibe. The place was mildly populated with fans watching the game at the enormous bar. The ambiance was nice but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what the setting was. Factory has some vintage sports decor, beautiful sofas and lounge like lighting, and the waitresses show off their spirit of the game in red baby t’s and white shorts. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the type of bar this was, it’s not like the clubs normally seen on St Laurent but not quite a sports bar either. Who is this rookie on The Main?
The Canadiens played back to back games Friday and Saturday but I promised my readers an Ottawa review as I’ve dodged the last two Ottawa games. We play Ottawa as much as we play Toronto so I was bound to get a game in soon. First, a big shout out from Friday’s Buffalo game. I was tipped off that a crew of Hab’s Inside/Out bloggers were meeting at Hurley’s on Crescent Street so I joined them. There were a lot of Habs fans in the house some even came from as far as the Yukon to drink and enjoy Montreal’s 3-2 victory. People came for a hockey summit, which featured a tour of the Bell Centre, and good old fashioned hockey talk. Hurley’s was packed with hardcore fans, nothing new to this Irish pub.
What an October it was, scary and surprising; The Canadiens put to rest the ghost of Halak and closed the month atop the league standings! With Carey Price playing amazing, (scary isn’t it?) the Habs have surprised many by banking quite a few points early in the season. (Eat this Price haters, especially the one who posted his hate on Facebook. I responded along with 21 others to “chill” on the hot goalie.) “Would you like it if I came into your workplace and start saying you suck?”
It was opening night in Montreal, first home game since the spectacular playoff run last May. Bars were packed again, people walking downtown wearing fresh red jerseys. It was the return of familiar faces I haven’t seen since playoffs, it’s middle of the week hockey and boy were we excited! I trekked to a familiar playoff haunt, the Irish Embassy. It was one of those bars that was set up for seeing hockey games. Giant TV screens in each room, decent food, fit for the 9 to 5 crowd that needs to unwind with a couple pints and pub food. Except that we opted to watch the game on the terrasse, the Embassy has a TV outside for the smokers to not miss a minute of every period.
Saturday night: usually a party night however it was thanksgiving weekend. Two things fell on that night, a gathering over at a place known as Vegas and the 1st Saturday game of the season. I was amongst some familiar faces with a feast going on in the kitchen, while in the living room two foes were battling against each other in the rematch of last Spring’s second round playoff run. Thanksgiving is a time when I get together with good friend for a good meal, getting to watch the latest rivalry to have sprouted up between Montreal and the Pittsburgh Penguins is a bonus. The Penguins are normally a powerhouse and would easily contend for the Stanley Cup however they’ve had a hard time beating Montreal as of late.
First game of the season, the air filled with the noise of “where are you going to watch the game tonight?”. There was the idea of heading downtown for the first game against the much hated Toronto Maple Leafs however I had to deal with a Toronto problem of my own and had to change the game plan. Looks like I’m heading to the “office” tonight. My office, better known as the Copacabana on St Laurent, was where I hurried before the opening faceoff. The bar was packed to capacity, no standing room tonight. Copa is my usual haunt for beers and loud cheers. Normally a soccer crowd is gathered in here, it being in the heart of the Portuguese neighborhood but where there’s hockey they will gather.
The Montreal Canadiens will start their season Thursday on the road against Toronto. Ah yes, nothing better than starting the season with a matchup where either: A) we humiliate the Leafs the way any good Montrealer would or B) get humiliated by the money pit that will never hasn’t won since… no one can remember its been that long! Yes, I am a Canadiens fan. I think I deserve the right to make fun of the Leafs. Its so easy and fun. Since the Chicago Blackhawks are the current Stanley Cup Champions, Toronto is currently the team with the longest Stanley Cup drought (since 1967, all their Cup photos are in black in white). However, when we needed the one point in order to qualify for the playoffs last Spring, Toronto didn’t make it easy. They may be lowly Toronto, but our rivalry is fierce and they will do anything to kick Montreal’s ass.
It’s only preseason everyone, chillax! Wait, is chillax even a word? Chillax is a lazy man’s way of saying calm down. Aw Carey Price, could you have picked a better word? I had time to go into the office this past Monday night. My office, being the Copacabana on St. Laurent. It was a quiet rainy night, the bar was full of a handful of regulars, watching the Montreal Canadiens beat the Florida Panthers 6-2. It was the fourth night in a row that our Habs had play, a mixed squad of fresh faces and familiar ones, a different goalie each game.
It had been a good summer in Montreal, the air is warm as I ride my bike from one event to the next. In Montreal there’s always something to do and people to see. No one really sleeps in the summer. Welcome to life in the city of “joie du vie” – city of festivals, free shows and fun. As the temperature starts to cool off though, there is something else in the air that most Montrealers are familiar with…Yes, the season is starting soon. Can you feel the hockey in the air? Not exactly in the figurative sense. You do start noticing that the sports section has slowly gotten thicker, the TSN twitter feed has doubled and the small talk from strangers has heated up: Why the f#@k did the Montreal Canadiens keep Carey Price and not Jaroslav Halak?
The morning after the last game, the last faceoff, the last glove save. The Bell Centre quiet, the fan jam gone. Bars will be quiet until Formula One racing in two weeks but grateful for the long playoff run. Beer taps in need of a refill. And that, my friend, was the best hockey I’ve seen in Montreal in a long time.
Well, good things were bound to end and in the case of the Montreal Canadiens, it lasted six weeks longer than anticipated. The one thing I can say about all of this: who knew? Who knew they had it in them to beat both the best team in the league and the defending champions. However, it was another scrapper of a team, The Philadelphia Flyers, that got us beat.
I couldn’t even find the words to describe this game or what I saw on the ice. It looked like the Montreal Canadiens: skating hard and fast, shots on net a many, but nothing was going in, nothing was going right. These guys were making Michael Leighton, a 2nd rate goalie who had been Philly’s go to guy for barely a week, look like the best.