LONGUEUIL – As part of its BLEU BLANC BOUGE program, the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation unveiled its sixth multipurpose refrigerated community rink on Monday at Lionel Groulx Park in Longueuil.
Kids big and small – and some just in spirit – hopped on to the fresh ice surface to mark its official opening.
“I think it’s incredible. It’s like I told the guys earlier, it’s rare to see an NHL-sized outdoor rink,” praised Canadiens forward Manny Malhotra of the regulation-size 200-by-85-foot rink which was built in accordance with NHL standards to feature ice quality that meets the highest professional standards. “Being out here is making me feel like a kid again. It’s bringing back memories of playing pond hockey with my friends growing up, when my hands and feet would be frozen, but we’d still have a ton of fun.”
After thrilling fans during the team’s open practice at the Bell Centre on Sunday, defenseman Nathan Beaulieu was back in the community on Monday for another lighthearted day at the office.
“When you think of hockey, you think of cold rinks growing up, so it’s pretty special for me to be here today,” admitted the burgeoning Habs rearguard who grew up in Strathroy, ON. “It’s definitely bringing back memories of skating outside and I know the guys are having a lot of fun.”
With existing rinks already located in the neighborhoods of Villeray-St-Michel-Parc-Extension, Montreal North, Verdun, LaSalle, and Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace, the Longueuil rink becomes the first to be built outside the island of Montreal since the program first launched in 2008.
“I’d like to thank the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, the city of Longueuil, and all of our sponsors for their generosity and belief in the importance of living a healthy lifestyle,” said Canadiens owner, president and C.E.O., Geoff Molson. “We are extremely proud of the positive effect that our five BLEU BLANC BOUGE rinks are able to have in different neighborhoods across Montreal and are confident that the children and families of Longueuil will also benefit from this rink all year round.”
The BLEU BLANC BOUGE program’s primary focus is to develop healthy lifestyles among the youth of the neighborhoods in which the rinks are located, but at least one current Hab would like to see other NHL cities also take note.
“I saw the rink for the first time today and it’s remarkable. Growing up in Toronto I wish we had outdoor rinks this good,” noted Habs star P.K. Subban.
No stranger to NHL regulation-size outdoor rinks, having already skated in front of 41,000 fans during the 2011 Heritage Classic in Calgary, Subban still had lots to appreciate on Monday.
“It helps that it’s not -30 today,” cracked the 25-year-old assistant captain. “Everything came together perfectly. You can see a lot of great people out here – Geoff Molson came out – it says a lot, Mrs. Beliveau is here as well. It makes it special when you see these types of people sharing their support, but this is Montreal and we’re the Montreal Canadiens. We’re a family, and Quebec as a province supports its community which is really cool to see. Getting to be a part of it is something really special.”
To learn more about the BLEU BLANC BOUGE program, click here.