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Quebec performers rock, roll and spin the Bell Centre

Sunday, 01.25.2009 / 7:57 PM / 2009 NHL All-Star Game

By Bob Condor - NHL.com Editor-in-Chief

MONTREAL -- The Q (for Quebec) Factor was high for Sunday's NHL All-Star Game. Every entertainment segment performed before the game and between periods was worked by musicians from the province.
 
The headline act, pop-rock band Simple Plan, played between the second and third periods to big cheers. The Montreal group started with its top hit, "Your Love is a Lie," which ramps up in bounds from start to finish. The Canadian networks CBC and RDS planned to look in live, so lead singer Pierre Bouvier said "we wanted to start with our biggest song."
 
Bouvier and all of the Simple Plan musicians are passionate Canadiens fans, save drummer Chuck Comeau who splits his loyalties between the Habs and Capitals (drummers just always have to be different, right?) Comeau was wearing an Ovechkin jersey and explained he is "big friends" with goalie Jose Theodore. "My loyalities go where he plays," said Comeau.

There another loyalty you have to love about Comeau: His laptop's home every time he boots up? NHL.com, of course.
 
The Bell Centre pulsed with Simple Plan's high-intensity "Generation," which has been adopted by many hockey fans and media as a "goal song" -- which could have proved handy during Sunday's scorefest. Finishing up with two songs from its new self-titled "Simple Plan" album, it's not hard to see why it has gone platinum in Canada.
 
Festivities -- and that's a term Montreal clearly took to heart all weekend -- warmed up with a "Let's Go Hab" mix by Mes Aïeux, a "neo-traditional" music group that spread the NHL love by four of its members donning team jerseys from the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Bruins and Red Wings. The drummer (they always have to be different) selected a Montreal Maroons jersey.
 
Cirque Éloize was next and not to be missed. The circus arts group (that description doesn't do justice to what 21,000-plus fans enjoyed) opened with a violinist spinning and flipping on a trapeze way too high if you are scared of heights; she played mostly upside down as another Cirque Éloize performer made her way down a ribbon that stretched from the rafters to the Western Conference end of the ice.
 
On the Eastern Conference end, the crowd buzzed about the man whole stole the Cirque show. He spiraled and spun inside a large ring or hoop, somehow never falling to the ice or slipping even slightly. It looked harder than being on skates -- and seems like an ideal next step for Scotia Bank Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge two-time winner Alex Ovechkin. There were two other spinning rings above, dangling and filled with Cirque Éloize members, along, fittingly, with 2009 All-Stars scoring goals East-West-North-and-South on the video scoreboard.
 
Player introductions followed form, with Big Noise for the Canadiens' All-Star starters, though the biggest cheers were reserved for Bob Gainey and Jean Beliveau during the ceremonial puck drop.
 
The Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir took on the national anthems, with Alan Prater soloing on a rich, soulful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," holding notes and drawing appreciative hoots and applause. For "O, Canada," the 40-member Jubilation Choir delivered a stirring rendition of the Canadian anthem that, let's face it, all hockey fans simply adore. This version was strong, smooth and easily drew tears in the crowd. Players were clearly rapt too.
 
Another Cirque performer defied gravity and any sort of normal human coordination skills at first intermission, balancing and juggling an open cube formed by silver tubes that looked to be about eight feet long. He merely set the stage for Quebecois singer-songwriter Marie-Mai, who sang a rockin' tune in English at ice level, then went airborne on the cabled stage (which later went all the way up) just high enough to allow the Cisco and Pogo Zambonis to clean and resurface the ice. Marie-Mai's second tune was in French, same for a thumping third.
 
Marie-Mai finished with a pull-it-down, all-out short burst from the song, "Highway to Hell," complete with a ring of video fire rimming the upper decks. Let's just stay the song title was a holistic opposite of what fans were experiencing during Honda/NHL SuperSkills and the NHL All-Star Game. Note to arena architects: Figure out how Bell Center's acoustics were achieved. The sound was very clean.
 
Speaking of Cisco, the corridors at Bell Centre served as their own form of entertainment for out-of-towners visiting Montreal for the Honda SuperSkills and NHL All-Star Game. The plaques of legendary Canadiens players -- and there are lots and lots of them -- beautifully and strategically placed along the first concourse level. All of us goalies have to appreciate the Gump Worsley plaque and his 1.98 goals-against season and four Stanley Cup titles with the Habs.
 
Cisco was operating its TelePresence Experience nearby. NHL YoungStar and Tampa Bay Lightning center Steve Stamkos was on a giant video screen talking in real time with fans who stepped inside a special booth. Nine-year-old Kyle Repar, wearing a Lightning jersey and in Montreal for the weekend with his dad, asked Stamkos if he planned to use any of his moves from the Scotia Bank Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge that the rookie "invaded" on Saturday night.
 
Good question, Kyle.
 
After laughing, Stamkos said, "I have thought about it, but the coaches might bench me if I don't make it."