By Briane Nasimok
(MONTREAL, QC) – As a graduation gift, the heir-apparent (trademark Glenn Morley) had a major wish fulfilled; to attend a Montreal Canadiens playoff game at the Bell Centre. This even though his diploma is still one Spanish exam away.
Nonetheless, he and I made the pilgrimage to la Belle Province for Game Two of the Stanley Cup Eastern Finals versus the Rangers, earlier this month.
Being Toronto-based, why the Canadiens and not the Leafs? You have to ask?
At one time Les Habitants had been part of his mother’s family business holdings and, because of that, our man cave is bedecked with photos and paraphernalia of those glorious rouge, bleu, et blanc years.
This was our fourth visit to the arena, but this one was going to be special. It was a chance to see his team gear up for the Finals, until we discovered that injured Montreal goalie Carey Price would not be guarding the twine.
VIA was our preferred carrier to the game since by the time we knew the team got past the hated Bruins, those oh so cheap Porter flights weren’t so cheap. The last two times I took the train to Montreal, and Ottawa, I had a VIA “One-derful” experience in business, but as this part of the pilgrimage was coming out of my pocketbook, we sat in steerage.
My other major expenditure was our stay at the Novotel, a property that is pretty much a beer bottle’s throw away from the Bell Centre. His mother’s generous contribution were the tickets, which she obtained through the Canadiens subscribers exchange, at cost plus a small handling fee; a much better alternative than going to Stub-Hub or scalpers-R-us.
We arrived on the afternoon of the game and, while the grad-to-be rested in the room after the exhausting ordeal of sitting for five hours, I went to will call to pick up the tickets. After dinner with Auntie Bunny, designer pizzas at an outdoor café, it was off to the game.
It was a madhouse outside the arena with tents set up to have face tattoos, body paint, and a barber who would cut the team’s insignia into your head of hair. And lots of beer drinking. We got through the crowd and into the Centre early enough to visit with Pierre Maguire, the NBC colour analyst with whom I’d worked at the Los Angeles NHL All-Star Extravaganza. I miss Pierre’s insights since he moved from Canadian television, and I confess that sometimes (okay many times) I switch to the US broadcast to get his insightful view of the game.
And then it was off to our seats.
His mother had opted to buy a “Prestige” pair, three rows from the glass, in the corner of the Montreal goal. They were fantastic especially being so close to the warm-up skate. A patron, who put the “atic” into fanatic, came down from the heavens and perched himself right on the glass, continually screaming at the Canadiens skaters, as they passed by.
I noticed that star defenseman PK Subban had an unusual pre-game ritual. He continually confronted teammates and physically challenged them. Heck, it seemed to work for him.
There were a number of overly well-dressed security members at the top of our section and I thought that odd until, at the end of the warm up, I found out why.
Hearing commotion behind us, I turned to see that the Prime Minister of Canada had entered and was standing about ten rows behind our seats in the aisle. People were coming over to say hello. He seemed almost as popular as Rob Ford, but soon everyone’s attention turned to the ice for the arrival of Canada’s last hope for the Cup.
The atmosphere was electric and, after a brilliant video opening, the team took the ice with the biggest ovation for PK. The fans gave a large, enthusiastic welcome to the goalie taking Price’s place, the man who would keep a country’s hopes alive.
After the US anthem, Ginette Reno tried to work her magic with O Canada. But, as you know by now, the outcome of the game was a 3-1 loss.
The only drawback with the seats was the pair of fans sitting in the front row that continually jumped to their feet and pounded the glasses whenever the action came into our proximity. And this was without the aid of alcohol enhancement.
During the first intermission I observed that there were two lines leaving our section. The one on the left was bound for the concessions and/or washrooms, the other was waiting to chat with the PM as he had actually stayed with the crowd instead of ascending to the heavens of private boxes with designer food.
I had visited the men’s room earlier and, while it might not have the greatest number of toilet facilities that I have seen in an arena or stadium, the waiting area is huge. They could’ve staged a reception there; or a silent auction. After a few moments, I decided that I would join the queue for the PM.
While standing there, it reminded me of my bar mitzvah receiving line, where I had to smile, greet the guests, and hopefully get an envelope with a cheque. As I made my way up the stairs, you could see the PM was getting a lot of positive feedback, so I decided to keep the conversation light and breezy.
I will sit on the fence when it comes to declaring my political leanings, but I will share the fact that I have worked and voted for almost all of the parties, Green included. Except, I have never supported the Marxist Leninist or the Transcendental Flying Party.
Finally my turn came.
I went up the final step to the PM and he said, “Hello.” I reminded him that we had met at a previous hockey-related function. About 16 months ago I wrote and helped stage manage an event celebrating the 1972 Team Canada victory. One of my jobs, other than writing for Ron MacLean, was to organize the players for their march-in.
I had worked with a number of them during the Heroes of Hockey matches at All-Star, so I felt comfortable yelling at them to get in line. Once they were all set to go, as I waited for the cue, this tallish, dapper dressed man came to the front to be introduced first; yes, it was the PM.
There were a good three minutes of waiting so we talked hockey, comedy, and the state of the economy. Okay, just hockey and comedy. When I reminded him of our previous encounter he took a beat, smiled deeply and said, “That was a great night, wasn’t it?”
He then proceeded to ask me my name again; nice touch, sir.
I wanted to include a selfie with this article, but the PM had his official photographer with him and a professional took the shot instead.
I was given a card with my own personal number and a website address where I could request my photo. However I could not make out whether the last digit was a 4 or a 9, so let’s see what I get back. I will post it with my next offering.