MONTREAL – It will be initiation night at Bell Centre on Wednesday as nine players on either side of the rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins will be getting their first taste of it.
For the Canadiens, offseason acquisitions Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong as well as rookies Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher have never felt it, while the Bruins have Chris Bourque and rookies Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Spooner, Lane MacDermid and Jamie Tardif.
“If you look at both teams there are some players who will be facing that for the first time,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “All I can say is they’ll figure it out quick enough what’s going to happen here.”
It is not overstating things to say there is an adjustment that needs to be made to the heavily charged atmosphere that surrounds these games between the Canadiens and Bruins, no matter the venue. And Julien recognizes those players will need to adjust quickly.
“The way they handle it is important,” he said. “We’ve got a guy in Hamilton who’s been pretty calm through everything. He was in his hometown last Saturday and it didn’t seem to bother him, so I imagine he’ll be able to handle that well. We’ve got a couple of call-ups who are excited to play here, and hopefully they turn that energy into a positive situation.”
Judging by Hamilton’s initial response Tuesday to how he feels heading into his first Canadiens-Bruins game, it would appear he is likely to be just fine when the game actually begins.
“It’s just another rink in the NHL, I think,” the rookie defenseman said after practice Tuesday. “When you get out there, I think it’s just another ice surface. But I’ve heard with the fans and the rivalry it can get pretty crazy here so the atmosphere’s pretty cool. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Galchenyuk had much the same attitude on the Canadiens side, trying not to make too much of the game.
“Obviously there will be more emotion because the fans will be more into it,” he said, “but we just have to play it like a normal game and try to win it.”
Wednesday night’s game will be a little extra special for Spooner and Bourque.
Not only is Spooner getting his first taste of the rivalry, it’s his first NHL game and he grew up as a Canadiens fan in nearby Ottawa.
“I played a preseason game here and it was pretty nuts,” said Spooner, an emergency recall to replace the injured Brad Marchand in the Bruins lineup. “I actually grew up a Montreal Canadiens fan, so it’s pretty cool that my first game is here.”
Bourque grew up around the Bruins tagging along with his Hall of Fame father Ray, and after scoring his first goal in the Black and Gold on Saturday in Toronto, he gets a chance to take part in a rivalry he’s known intimately for his whole life.
“To be able to play in a game tonight against a team I grew up rooting against is something that will be real special,” Bourque said. “All my family’s still from Montreal, so I come back here in the summers to see my family. I really love Montreal, it’s pretty much a second home for me.”
Bourque can rest assured it certainly won’t feel like home once he steps on that Bell Centre ice Wednesday night.