MONTREAL – The Place des Festivals was a melting pot of hockey and music fans coming together to create a party-like atmosphere and raise the curtain on the 2013-14 NHL season at Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off 2013, hours before the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs dropped the puck a few blocks to the west at Bell Centre.
Families, business people, tourists and obviously a boatload of hockey fans stormed the city's concert district to take part in interactive games and get some autographs from Montreal Canadiens alumni such as Guy Carbonneau, Vincent Damphousse and Chris Nilan.
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Former Canadiens captain Guy Carbonneau signs an autograph for a lucky fan. Check out more photos from Face-Off 2013 on the NHL's official Instagram.
Music fans were reserving their spots at the main concert stage hours before the festivities began with Toronto rock band The Beaches to warm up the crowd for the headliner Kings of Leon to take over about 30 minutes before the season got underway at Bell Centre. The second intermission was reserved for Quebec hip hop group Loco Locass, who actually had one of their songs performed beforehand.
The group's song "Le But" (The Goal in English) has been adopted by the Canadiens as their goal song, so when Lars Eller got Montreal on the board at 10:08 of the first period and Brendan Gallagher added another at 13:54, Loco Locass' song was heard from coast to coast on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and on the big screens at NHL Face-off on RDS.
It was appropriate, because it was the iconic CBC show that launched the song's popularity.
During Montreal's run to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the CBC used "Le But" for one of Hockey Night in Canada's famous pre-game video montages, and it instantly became a hit even though most people listening to it didn't understand a word. The Canadiens adopted the song to celebrate their goals during last season's playoffs.
"We had to release that song at the right moment, because if we released it at the wrong time, it could have been associated with some bad vibes," said Sébastien Fréchette, better known as "Biz" of Loco Locass.
"Against Pittsburgh, the CBC did their opening to our song. So the first words we hear on the CBC that night are our lyrics in French from Vancouver to Halifax. And that montage remains to this day the best montage that has ever been made with that song, they used archival images and it was fantastic.
"Since it was shown from coast to coast, there were people who were asking, 'What is this? I don't understand a thing, but I like it.' The next day on YouTube we had comments like, 'I don't understand any French, but this is an awesome song.' So, we can say we picked the right time to release the song."
Whether it's at games or special events like Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off 2013, music and sport has been a winning combination for ages.
"To get the atmosphere going in an arena, it takes music," Fréchette said. "So the relationship between music and sports, it's been around for a long time. For me, it makes perfect sense to have musical acts when celebrating sports. I'd say the next step for us would be to be at center ice singing [our song Le But] before the national anthems or during the intermission."
But Loco Locass doesn't take part in an event like Tuesday's for visibility. The main objective is to help an event that can bring so many people together.
"I don't think we'll be number one on iTunes in Tennessee tomorrow morning," Fréchette said. "But it could help someone who, let's say, is a fan of [Alex] Ovechkin in Washington, D.C.; someone who loves hockey and who comes here and has fun, meets some people, hears us and likes it. … It can open some horizons. That's what an event like this is for -- to bring people together."