MONTREAL - For the first time in years, the Canadiens won't be on the road when the Toronto Blue Jays arrive for their annual preseason visit to the Olympic Stadium on March 26 and 27. And for at least a couple of Habs players, that means they'll be taking advantage of the opportunity to soak in some Major League Baseball action in Montreal this time around.
"A few of us were talking, we're really looking forward to it. The city of Montreal gets excited, all of Canada gets excited for the Jays," said Brendan Gallagher, an unabashed supporter of Canada's lone contingent in the Majors. "It'll be cool to be around and go hang out and be a part of it this year."
This year, the Blue Jays will be taking the field against the St. Louis Cardinals, and if all goes according to plan, they could have some special guests link up with them for some time at the plate at the Big O.
"I was talking with Gally, I think somebody approached him about potentially doing some batting practice as well," said Jeff Petry, who learned the in's and outs of club house etiquette as he tagged along during his dad Dan's 13-year run in the Majors with the Detroit Tigers, California Angels, Boston Red Sox, and Atlanta Braves. "I'd be all in for that. I went to a game a couple of years ago when I was injured. I went to the Toronto-Red Sox game. I'd be in to go, for sure."
If you take Gallagher at his word, the expectations for Petry's performance when he trades in his hockey stick for a baseball bat will be rather lofty.
"I'll get to see what Petey's got," remarked Gallagher of Petry, who likely holds the distinction of being the only Hab to have taken pitches from a World Series-winner after his father won it with the Tigers in 1984. "He obviously has the baseball genes, so hopefully he can impress us."
The pressure will be on for Gallagher, too, however. The Canadiens' winger has taken batting practice with the Vancouver Canadians in the past and had previously blamed the elements for preventing him from hitting it out of the park.
"I did it once. I was pretty disappointed. There was a slight breeze coming in, and I just hit the top of the left-field wall. I couldn't get it over," he recalled, rather cheekily. "Another couple of feet, but… the breeze held me back."
Unfortunately for Gally, the Big O is completely enclosed and wind - however slight - won't be the factor that stops him from going the distance.
"The dome in Montreal should help," Gallagher added. "I shouldn't have any excuse. I hope I wake up feeling pretty good that day. The conditions should be good."
Both lifelong fans of the game, Gallagher and Petry understand the important place baseball occupies in the hearts of Montrealers, something that's been brought to the surface again more recently both with the annual Jays visits and the recent inductions of a pair of former Expos into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
"With [Tim] Raines last year and [Vladimir] Guerrero this year, this time of year always brings back the baseball vibe," concluded Petry. "It'd be great to see baseball back in Montreal."
Tickets for the Blue Jays-Cardinals games on March 26 and 27 can be bought here.