MONTREAL – The home of the Habs was home to hundreds of young hockey players over the weekend as part of the Canadiens’ annual ESSO Minor Hockey Festival.
Before the Canadiens start moving their gear back in, the Bell Centre officially opened its doors for hockey on Jan. 5 and 6 to minor hockey teams from across the province.
Over the course of the two-day event, 46 teams from Novice to Pee-Wee from every region of Quebec took part in friendly games with the goal of creating some experiences that would last a lifetime.
“He was definitely a little nervous this morning,” shared Serge, whose nephew hit the ice on Sunday morning with the Lasalle Cougars. “Coming to play at the Bell Centre is something special.
“I always said he was going to be a hockey player,” beamed the proud uncle as he watched his nephew hopping over the boards by the Canadiens bench. “It definitely fills me with pride watching him play here.”
To make sure it was an experience open to everyone, players from every corner of Quebec were invited to take part in the weekend festivities.
“We worked in collaboration with Hockey Quebec and the various minor hockey associations to randomly select the teams who would represent the different regions here,” explained Canadiens manager of minor hockey, Stephane Verret. “This year, we had more ice time available so it allowed us to invite more teams than ever, including six girls’ teams.”
From the LRF program, skills camps, the summer hockey school, Tim Horton’s coaching day or the ESSO minor hockey festival, the Canadiens are committed to developing and supporting grassroots hockey in Quebec.
“It’s important for us to be involved in minor hockey because it’s the future. You have to keep kids engaged and interested in the game. We need to be there supporting the game from the get-go, from kids getting their start in MAG all the way up to Pee-Wee, Bantam and Midget,” added Verret, who welcomed teams from as far as Matane and Rimouski for the weekend.
Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis. SEE ALSO: VIDEO: Welcome back, hockey! Golden Galchenyuk Weekly Quiz - January 5