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Bear Essentials On the Road: Montreal

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Bear Essentials on the Road: MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA (Bell Centre)

Where are we going?
Monument to Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve. (Photo: Denis Tremblay,
“Montreal is the cultural capital of Quebec and the main entry point to the province.  The second-largest city in Canada, it is a city rich in culture and history...and a well-deserved reputation as one of the liveliest cities in North America,” proclaims Wikipedia.

The city was originally known as Ville-Marie, or “City of Mary,” but its current name is perhaps taken from Mount Royal, a mountain at the center of the city.

The official language of Montreal is French, and, according to the 2006 Canadian Census, French was spoken at home by 70.5% of the population, making Montreal home to the third-largest French-speaking population in the world.

More than 1,620,000 people live in Montreal proper, according to that same census. Despite the large number of inhabitants, he city was ranked the 10th cleanest city in the world in 2007.

While Montreal has historical architecture, particularly in the area known as Old Montreal, it is also known for its “Underground City,” a set of pedestrian tunnels built under the streets that connect buildings to one another.

“The connections are considered tunnels architecturally and technically, but have conditioned air and good lighting as any building’s livable space does,” explains Wikipedia.

There are over 20 miles of tunnels located in an area encompasing around five square miles of the city. There are over 120 entrances and nearly 500,000 people use this “Underground City” daily in winter.

Where are we playing?
“Every year, the home of the Montreal Canadiens attracts close to 850,000 spectators to their hockey games, while 650,000 people walk through the doors to watch over 120 shows, for a total of 1.5 million spectators,” proclaims the Bell Centre’s website.

Groundbreaking took place on June 22, 1993, for what would become the Molson Centre, now known as the Bell Centre, or Le Centre Bell en français. 

The arena hosted its first hockey game just shy of three years later, on March 16, 1996, when the Canadiens played the New York Rangers.  The first concert in the new arena was performed by Celine Dion.

The arena has numerous different configurations for concerts, from a full arena-style seating arrangement, to a small, theatre-like set-up, but it seats 21,273 for hockey games.

Curious visitors can take a tour of the arena four times a day – two tours are in French, and two are in English.

Fun Fact: Laying a sheet of ice in the Bell Centre takes about 12 hours.

Who are we playing?
Maurice "Rocket" Richard, of the Montreal Canadiens, is shown in action on Dec. 14, 1954. (AP Photo)
The Montreal Canadiens, or Les Canadiens de Montréal in French, are officially known as Le Club de Hockey Canadien.

The club goes by many nicknames, however: Les Canadiens, Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, La Sainte-Flanelle, Le Tricolore, Les Glorieux, Les Habitants (the Habs in English) and Le Grand Club.

The Canadiens are one of the “Original Six” NHL teams and are the oldest continuously-operating club in the league.

The Habs were founded on December 4, 1909, as a charter member of the National Hockey Association, and the team played their first game on January 5, 1910.  They won their first Stanley Cup in 1916.

The team has won 24 Stanley Cups which, according to Wikipedia, makes them third-most successful major professional sports team in North America. 

“On a percentage basis, as of 2006, [the Canadiens had] won 25% of all NHL/NHA Stanley Cup championships,” says Wikipedia.  “Only the Boston Celtics of the NBA (26.2%) and the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball (25.2%) have higher success rates.”

The team adopted their first-ever mascot recently.

Youppi, a furry, orange creature, is the former mascot of the Montreal Expos baseball team, but when they moved to Washington, D.C., he was dropped from the team he did not make the move.  Thus, Youppi is the first mascot in professional sports to switch leagues.

FYI: Next year marks the Canadiens 100th anniversary as a team, and they will hold the 2009 All-Star Game and Draft.
When are we playing?
7:00 p.m. ET

Who's playing for us?
We'll know more soon. Morning skate is at 11:30 a.m.

Is the game on?
As always, NESN and WBZ will be broadcasting the game.

Saturday, March 22, 9:39 a.m.
Watch Shawn Thornton's Vlog
Did you have a good Friday?

Me neither.

The loss on Thursday firmly in mind, I ran around for most of the day preparing for, and making, the trip up here for the final game between the Bruins and the Canadiens during the regular season.

Friday's practice was somewhat more intense than I had imagined it would be and consisted of numerous situational drills and some contact.

All in all, it seemed as if quite a bit got done, but there were not too many smiles to be had. After a little bit of a technical hiatus, Shawn Thornton's vlog returned and yesterday the usually jovial Bruins policeman had a little more serious approach to our filming.

1:08 p.m.
John Bishop is the beat writer for He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room.
What we know: Not much.

Sorry, 'bout that.

The Bruins did not skate this morning, so there's no update as to lines, goaltender or scratches.

The B's on the ice this morning -- Bergeron, Fernandez, Sobotka, Nokelainen, Schaefer.

Both Manny and Patrice said that they were feeling fine.

The Habs are reportedly without Komisarek and Latendresse, in with Begin. Halak was on the ice without Price, so apparently Carey will be in goal.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien was asked about who his goalie would be tonight.

"We'll see tonight," he said to the relatively small number of media personnel waiting outside the B's dressing room.

The questions he got were not a surprise, and Julien intimated that his club needs to focus on the task at hand.

"I don't think we are necessarily in a panic mode," said a Coach Julien just before noon. "I am not going to say that were very happy with what is happening, but I think it's just a matter of our guys showing more desperation than ever.

"Hopefully we don't wait until we are out of a playoff spot before we start showing a bit more desperation.

"That is what you need this time of year and it's what seems to be giving teams those much-needed wins," he said.

And if there was a much-needed win definition in the ol' dictionary, well, you know how the rest of that goes.

Asked if there was added pressure on the B's trying to break their negative streak against the Habs, Coach ended that line of questioning (and eventually his media scrum) very quickly.

"I am tired of talking about it," said Julien. "Tonight's a game that we have to win. That's how I approach it.

"Let's just turn the page boys and let's go out there and win a hockey game."


3:42 p.m.
Well, we are down to just minutes left for me to be in my hotel room before heading over to the Bell Centre. Got back about an hour ago from visiting La Brasserie Brunoise and my friend Zach. It's Zach's restaurant and he said that it is a "safe spot" near the Bell Centre. It is actually  just a throw from deep short from the front door of the Canadiens home rink.

In any case, it was good to talk hockey with a fellow True Believer.

Folks, it just doesn't get any bigger than this. And as the minutes fly by, I am starting to get a knot in my stomach -- and I am not even playing.

"All we have to do is win our hockey games," said Coach Julien, earlier today. "Then it doesn't matter what anyone else does.

"That's the way that I look at it."

Coach said that the B's destiny is in their own hands.

"The bottom line, and I keep telling the guys this, is that it's ours to lose," continued Julien. "It's not ours to win -- we're [already] there.

"It's up to us to keep our spot.

"And we know what we have to do to keep it," he said.

It should be a good one. A little over three hours and counting until the puck drops...

5:42 p.m.
I am in the press box of the Bell Centre watching Chicago and Nashville with John Bucyk. Not bad.

Thanks to a nice dinner in the Habs press lounge, my nerves have calmed down. But as the warmup comes nigh I think I am probably going to need some Pepto!

The Montreal fans are starting to trickle in, and if I had to guess, every other patron has a red Canadiens jersey.

6:02 p.m. has yesterday's Canadiens practice lines:
A. Kostitsyn-Plekanec-Kovalev
S. Kostitsyn-Koivu-Ryder
Markov-Gorges (sg) Price
Hamrlik-O'Byrne (bg) Halak

6:30 p.m.
It's Timmy in net.

Chara-Wideman (sg) Thomas
Ference-Ward (bg) Auld
Stuart-Hnidy Go Bruins!

Should be a good one. I am staying here for the duration!

7:00 p.m.
Nice presentation before the game...similar to ours at The Garden. Background song is U2.

First Period
0:00 The place is full to the bursting. And loud!

:35 A scary little flurry for the Habs...

2:20 I love U2. But I am really tired of hearing Virtigo. And apparently Axie is, too. He just earned a hard fought draw with LaPierre. But Markov had scored on the previous play and the score is 1-0, Montreal.

4:46 Montreal has held sway thus far. B's just had their first real chance...Price was there.

6:38 Nice PK for the B's, who earned a PP in the process.

8:06 Timmy has been way too busy, folks. Way too busy.

8:36 Marc Savard just made the best play of the year. Wrap around goal to put the B's right back in it. 1-1.

9:49 Vertigo again. On the heels of a power play, the Habs score again. One of the Kostitsyn boys puts the Habs up, 2-1.

12:37 I am not sure I saw Phil do anything to earn a penalty. In any case, MTL on the PP. Check that, Plekanec in the box, too.

14:02 Hard work by David Krejci earns a PP for Boston.

14:40 Price just made a beautiful glove save to keep it, 2-1 Habs.

18:43 The Canadiens have put continuous pressure on the Boston goal. And the B's scoring chances have not been of the same quality.

19:18 More hard work from Krejci earns the B's a late PP.

20:00 Well. The B's are in this. It wasn't pretty. But it is only a one-goal deficit.

Second Period
0:00 The B's need a quick goal. Real bad.

7:00 Sorry folks, dreamin' there. The B's had some nice pressure on Price, but he has been up to the task on every shot. Thankfully, however, so has Tim and the game is still, 2-1.

8:36 Montreal is outshooting the B's, 21-15.

9:33 Luch, patiently brings the puck into the zone, waits on a line change. Milan passes to Stuart, who puts it on the tape of a waiting Nokelainen and boom...2-2.

10:17 It got quiet in here...

10:41 Rolling, scrambling save on Koivu, by Timmy.

14:03 An aerobics instructor just got the sold out crowd dancing in place. I kid you not...

17:05 Four fights...with Begin vs. Hnidy being the big one. Reicher and Thorts have dance partners. And I think Noke had one, too. It started with, I think, a big hit on Hnidy by Begin.

18:39 Late PP for the B's.

19:00 Outstanding breakaway save by Thomas on #21 Red.

20:00 A much better period for Boston, who truly earned the tie score.

Third period
0:00 Had to run down to the press room to be near the locker room -- we are flying out tonight.

1:00 Price had to make a scrambling save...landed face down.

5:30 Thomas with a nice cover in the middle of a scrum in front of his net.

7:17 Wow. Nervous. Nice stop by TIm, again. But Montreal is back on the PP.

9:53 Nice kill by Boston. Very, very lucky that the Habs have not been more dangerous on the man-advantage.

10:25 Thomas with a HUGE save on one of the Kostitsyn brothers.

12:00 Another big save by TImmy. Stomach ache.

16:10 One of the Habs had an open net -- and MISSED!

17:22 Stoppage in the B's zone. Good cover by Thomas.

18:14 PP for Boston. Coach Julien takes his time out.

20:00 Good effort for the Bruins, who earn one point.

0:00 I don't think that 4-on-4 favors Boston, so this could be a little scary. Hang on Timmy!

1:49 Tim just stopped Georges point-blank, blocker.

4:58 Amazing back and forth action. Just an outstanding hockey game. Fun.

How are your nerves?
Nice save Tim...
Phil hit the post. Stomach rumble...
Way to work, TIm. Kovie is tough.
Boy. Oh. Boy.
Koivu scored. Hearbroken.

What a game...
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