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Come on down, folks

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Michel Therrien’s troops were shown plenty of love on Sunday.

Seventeen thousand fans packed the Bell Centre to see their favourite players hit the ice for the Provigo Canadiens Fan Practice ahead of Monday night’s tilt against the Nashville Predators.

Fans had a great time during the Provigo Canadiens Fan Practice on Sunday.

The event provided the perfect opportunity for fans of all ages to cheer on some of their hockey heroes while enjoying the unique atmosphere that the Canadiens’ home rink has to offer.

It’s safe to say the players appreciated the experience, too, relishing the chance to work out and showcase their skills in such a raucous environment.

“It’s amazing. These are the greatest fans in the world. This is the best place to play. There’s nothing better than the Bell Centre. For the fans to come out, with the times we’ve had lately, it means the world to the boys,” said Dale Weise, who has 14 goals and 25 points in 55 games during the 2015-16 campaign. “It’s such a good day for the fans. It’s such a good day for the players. Everybody enjoys it.”

Many among Therrien’s charges experienced the Provigo Canadiens Fan Practice for the first time, including hometown boy, Mark Barberio, who came on board over the summer.

“It really does us some good. A day like this, you hit the ice and there are thousands of people cheering. It’s a good atmosphere. You could see that the guys were excited for practice,” said Barberio, a Kirkland native, who has averaged 14:29 of ice time per game in 18 outings with the CH this season. “We all talked about the crowd when we got on the ice. It’s really cool to see that many people in the stands. It gave us a little extra jump during practice.”

While the Canadiens’ coaching staff stuck to the standard practice plan early on, they also let the players strut their stuff during a 3-on-3 game and a shootout designed to generate goals aplenty.

“It wasn’t the most goalie-friendly practice,” cracked Mike Condon, who picked up his 14th win of the season in Friday night’s 3-2 shootout victory over Philadelphia. “But, it’s good to get those 1-on-0’s and 2-on-0’s and practice that. It’s all for the fans and it’s a lot of fun. It was the first time I heard the goal horn go off against me when I got scored on at the Bell Centre.”

Fellow first-timer, Ben Scrivens, meanwhile, did his best to soak up his surroundings, including the musical selections offered up by the Bell Centre’s in-house DJ throughout the on-ice session.

Brendan Gallagher celebrates after scoring the shootout-winner on Sunday morning at the Bell Centre.

“I really liked the music during practice. That’s something that we can work into our normal practice routines, I think – have some tunes going – but maybe a little less techno, though,” said Scrivens, who appreciates open practices like these for reasons beyond just keeping things relatively light. “It’s important to be able to connect with our fan base that doesn’t get a chance to come down and watch us play all that often. Anytime we can have open skates like this, it’s important. Hopefully, everyone that made it down today – especially the kids – enjoyed it as much as we did.”

For his part, Paul Byron did a nice job of putting Sunday’s practice into perspective.

“Every one of us in this room was a kid at one point in time. We wanted to give them the best experience possible. It’s a lot of fun for us to do things like this,” explained Byron, who scored the shootout winner in the Canadiens’ most recent victory. “There are still a lot of people who believe in us. Seeing their support today means a lot. It’s a good feeling to know that all the fans have your back.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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