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Brand new beginning

Place Bell officially opened its doors on Thursday

by Joanie Godin, translated by Dan Braverman @canadiensMTL /

LAVAL - Beaming with pride, the Laval Rocket officially welcomed its first guests to its new home, Place Bell, on Thursday.

With a state-of-the-art arena at its disposal, the Canadiens' new minor-league affiliate will likely be eliciting some feelings of jealousy from around the hockey world.

Canadiens owner and president Geoff Molson was on hand for the official opening, and was more than impressed by everything that went into arriving at such a stunning outcome.

"It's really incredible, the work that went into building an arena that is of NHL calibre," praised Mr. Molson. "There will only be 10,000 people here instead of 21,000, but at the same time, everything is new, with all the latest technology and we're very proud of the project."

More than just fans and Rocket players will get to take advantage of this new addition to the Laval landscape, as the entire community, and lots of young athletes - hockey players, speed skaters and figure skaters - will benefit from the use of three new ice surfaces, including one international-sized rink.

Perhaps the allure of watching future NHL stars hone their game might even encourage some kids to take up the sport themselves.

"As a hockey fan, I think it's going to be incredible for the people of Laval to be able to watch the future Montreal Canadiens develop and perform in this market. I think it'll be inspiring for the younger generation," added the owner. "What typically happens is they follow a certain player and they watch them as they progress into the NHL. I think that'll be fantastic."

Almost 3,000 season tickets have already been purchased, numbers that place the club near the top of the league in that category, much to the delight of the organization.

"I want the people of Laval to be proud of their team, of the events evenko will offer and of their arena," Mr. Molson prescribed. "We want the team to be a winner."

Video: Geoff Molson on Place Bell

Rocket general manager Larry Carriere asserts that he and his team of coaches will be doing everything in their power to ice a team of premier quality for the home crowd.

"We have one objective, and it's winning, both in Montreal and in Laval," he affirmed. "If our young players know how to win, that will help us out everywhere."

The gathering also afforded reporters the opportunity to ask Geoff Molson his thoughts on the recent changes brought to his "other" team, the Habs. And while he acknowledged the departure of some key pieces of the puzzle, like Andrei Markov, he was thrilled to be welcoming Jonathan Drouin into the fold.

"Jonathan Drouin is a local superstar player - and very young, as well," he said. "I can't wait to see him get on the ice and show us what he can give us."

Mr. Molson is hopeful that other young homegrown players can follow in the footsteps of the Habs' new No. 92.

"There are others who are also on their way up. I'm thinking of Charles Hudon, who we're hoping will make his mark this year," he explained. "I think it's looking good, we have a very good team, a core that is excellent year after year and the best goalie in the world, which doesn't hurt."

As for general manager Marc Bergevin's salary cap wiggle room, the owner said with a smile that he didn't have to spend just for the sake of it, but "if he is able to improve the team, he can go ahead and spend it."

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