MONTREAL, QC -- There's no question that games at the Bell Centre in Montreal hold a special place in people's hearts.
The crowd is raucous, the atmosphere is different than most rinks around the league, and the Habs history permeates the building.
In short, it's a game that a lot of players, coaches, and staff members circle on their calender every year.
"You get excited as a kid playing street hockey and you put a fake Stanley Cup on the line and suddenly the intensity of a street hockey game picks up. Well, if you can’t get excited playing in this building there’s something wrong," Bob Hartley said with a smile.
"This is kind of Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and all those great parks because there’s lots of history. We’re playing this great game because there was the Original 6 teams one point many, many years ago that started this league and we’re here because of them. At the same time, it should be double motivation. The atmosphere at Bell Centre plus the fact that we’re playing another Original 6. It’s fun."
Former Hab Raphael Diaz remembers the first time he played at the Bell Centre vividly.
He had signed his first NHL deal with the Canadiens after spending several years in Switzerland and was awestruck by the sheer number of people who came out for pre-season game.
"It's special to play in one of the biggest rinks in the NHL. It's a good atmosphere," he recalled.
"It was the first time I played in an NHL rink and to compare that to Switzerland, it's huge. In Switzerland, you have like 7000, 8000 fans and here, it's almost triple the fans. It was a great experience I stepped on the ice here."
Sven Baertschi, who was recalled this morning and will suit up for tonight's game, can't wait to hit the ice this evening.
"Just talking to other people, they said it was the craziest crowd here," he told the media after the pre-game skate. "It must be amazing. It’s a huge rink. I’m really excited about tonight."