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Centennial Fan Arena

Canadiens, Maple Leafs fans check out Centennial Fan Arena

Tour museum truck, ride virtual Zamboni before rivals play each other in Montreal @NHLdotcom

MONTREAL -- With the NHL Centennial Fan Arena outside Bell Centre, it's only fitting that the Toronto Maple Leafs are in town to play the Montreal Canadiens.

The two Canadian cities have been battling for the hearts of this country's fans for 100 years through their respective hockey teams, and the drawing power of both the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens was plain to see among the people who came out to participate in the interactive experience celebrating the League's Centennial. 

Paul and Zachary Conte, who traveled close to 400 miles from Kitchener, Ontario for their annual father-son trip to Montreal, were outfitted in their Canadiens jerseys while marveling at the memorabilia on display in the 53-foot museum truck.

"I had heard about it and seen stuff on the NHL Snapchat, but I had no idea it would be here," said Zachary, 14. "I just think it's so cool to see all the history that's going on here, especially how it's been tailored for the area and my team. I think it's just amazing how much has happened has been compiled in this little truck for 100 years."

Zachary owes his Canadiens' allegiance to his father, who grew up in Windsor, Ontario, and decided to root for Montreal because everyone else in his family cheered for either the Maple Leafs or the Detroit Red Wings.

"It was definitely the right time to be a Canadiens fans," said Paul Conte, 48, who was particularly fascinated by one aspect of the traveling museum.

"I think it's just all of the equipment, to see how it's changed over the years and seeing the evolution and how there's increased protection for the players as the equipment evolves," he said.

Angelique and Chris Tobin, Kerri Lynn Doyle and Isaac Kettle, Maple Leafs fans from St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, proudly displayed their Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner jerseys.

"My father always went for the Leafs, so I did too," said Kettle, who found an item to his liking in the museum truck. 

Three generations of the Langelier family from Winnipeg took in the exhibit as part of their annual November trip a Canadiens home game.

Ron Langelier, his son Jeff, and his grandson, Joshua, were decked out in Canadiens garb while they admired the exhibits mere steps from where their own commemorative brick is displayed in Montreal's Centennial Plaza.

"This is our 10th year, and Joshua's seventh, and it doesn't get better," said Ron Langelier, 70, whose favorite player was Jean Beliveau. "My dad was a Habs fan and we listened to "Hockey Night in Canada" on the old radio, which was about two feet long."

Jeff Langelier grew up with "Hockey Night in Canada" on TV and cheered for Dale Hawerchuk and Thomas Steen before the original Winnipeg Jets left town. When they did, the Canadiens became his primary team and still are even with the Jets back in Winnipeg.

"I'm a Habs fan because these two were," said his son, Joshua, who will be 14 on Monday. "The Jets are up there, but I've just always been a Habs fan."

When Joshua was eight years old he got an opportunity to ride the Zamboni during a Canadiens game. Visitors to the Centennial Fan Arena have a similar opportunity through a virtual reality experience that allows fans to sit in a mini-Zamboni and try to create the perfect sheet of ice.

There is a second truck with a video display and a ball hockey rink and an opportunity for fans to see the Stanley Cup. And a special opportunity for this stop on the tour is the portrait gallery of the 100 Greatest NHL Players at Windsor Station.

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