MONTREAL - Being a Canadiens fan is anything but a part-time job. Even taking a Sunday off was not an option for the tidal wave of loyal fans who crammed their way into the Bell Centre for the fourth edition of the Canadiens Open Practice.
The doors may have only officially opened at 9:00 am, but many were already lined up as of 8:00 am to ensure having the best possible seat.
The busy morning kicked off with the winners of an RDS contest, the Ham-Nord Lions and Ste-Julie Volcans holding a team practice on the Canadiens' home-ice. But this wasn't just any practice as Christopher Higgins and Guillaume Latendresse soon hopped over the boards to join in the fun.
Then it was the Pee-Wee B St-Jean Lynx's turn to perform some LRF program drills with a little help from Habs Maxim Lapierre and Mike Komisarek.
"This is always a really fun day, and it's amazing to see the fans come out like and show us so much support," said Komisarek. "It was great to hang out with out with these young players. It's always a treat to see the looks on their faces."
Right on schedule at 10:00 am, the Canadiens made their grand entrance much to the delight of the over 20,000 fans in attendance. After a 30-minute practice under the watchful eye of head coach Guy Carbonneau, it was time for a shootout showdown. In the end it was the Green Team (Mike Johnson, Francis Bouillon, Michael Ryder, Garth Murray and Tomas Plekanec) that came away with a 2-1 win over the Red Team (Saku Koivu, Andrei Markov, Steve Begin, Aaron Downey et Mathieu Dandenault).
"Would you look at that, I can make the same moves as Martin St-Louis!" said Murray after slipping the deciding goal past David Aebsicher.
The table was then set for the much-anticipated 3-on-3 tournament. Team Green kept on rolling by notching a 3-0 win over Team Blue (Higgins, Lapierre, Sergei Samsonov, Komisarek and Latendresse) in the final. Higgins and his teammates had reached the grand finale thanks to a 2-1 overtime victory over Team White (Sheldon Souray, Alex Kovalev, Alexander Perezhogin, Janne Niinimaa and Mark Streit). Only Radek Bonk and Craig Rivet were unable to take part.
The event wrapped up with the players tossing souvenir pucks into the crowd, before leaving the ice to one last thunderous ovation.
"It always great to see the reaction from the crowd at this event," said Begin. "We had a lot of fun too and this type of atmosphere is a wonderful thing to be a part of."
The annual event was presented by Metro in collaboration with Lipton. Metro distributed thousands of tickets in their stores across the province, while fellow Canadiens sponsors RDS, CKAC, CJAD, Le Journal de Montreal and The Gazette as well as sympatico.ca, also did their part in helping once again make the Canadiens Open Practice a rousing success.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com