At the Game

At the Bell Centre when Patrick Roy's jersey was retired.
At the Bell Centre when Patrick Roy’s jersey was retired.

At the Game

Last night, my wife and I went to a hockey game.

They were free tickets, given by a friend. Naomi had told someone that I loved hockey and the next thing you know she was being offered two tickets to the Bell Centre to watch the Montreal Canadiens play the Dallas Stars.

When she told me about this I was happy though not necessarily thrilled to bits. I like watching the sports highlights in the morning on the web or the TV if I’m at home in the country. I will certainly look at the Sports section of the morning newspaper first thing if the Habs have played the night before.

But, unless I’m at a sports bar, I find that hockey is not that enjoyable a game to watch on TV. It’s hard to muster the necessary concentration to follow such a fast game.

Being at a game in person is a far, far different thing, however.

Naomi also mentioned her friend told her that the food would be free. I imagined us sitting in one of those posh corporate lounges with a stacked buffet table in the back. What I found however were normal seats; everyone tucked into a very small space with very little leg room and very little room to maneuver when you need to get by someone to get to your seat.

But the view of the ice was magnificent; not too close yet not up in the nosebleed section either.

We arrived early, having spent $20 on a parking spot that would supposedly allow us a neater retreat once the hordes of people left the centre at the end of the game.

So, should I get some food, now that we have 30 minutes before the puck drops?

I arrive at the food stand and watch a couple order smoked meat sandwiches and hot dogs. The man at the cash is pushing buttons on his cash machine but all the numbers are $0.00.

Hmm…

I had brought my wallet with me, of course, but the Bell employee didn’t waste time telling me that everything, except the beer, was free.

It took time to believe this, but I did, with a big smile on my face. Naomi and I had earlier enjoyed a relatively small dinner of soup and salad; I was hungry!

So, smoked meat sandwich, hmm, a hot dog, some orange juice. All for free! “Tickets at this level go for $200,” the man told me cheerily (I was stunned). “That’s why everything except the beer is free.”

It had been many years since my last visit to the Bell Centre, 1999 I think.

I had gone to see the Habs lose to a very tight-checking tenacious New Jersey Devils team. That night, we were seated behind the nets very, very high up. The players all looked like little stick figures skating around. When a Canadiens player scored, the place lit up with a roar but you didn’t really know what had just happened.

I was not impressed. In those days, there was a cordoned-off smoking area but smoke still billowed out into the halls. I guess that there were a lot more smokers in those days…

Last night, once the game started, I could clearly see the action and what action it was! Much more enjoyable than trying to follow the action on the small screen (well, a brand-new 40-inch high-definition flat screen, but who’s counting?). And if I missed something, there was always the enormous hi-definition Jumbotron screen to review what had just transpired.

I wasn’t too fond of the loud music played during every timeout. The senses are bombarded, yes they are, although it’s fun to watch the candid camera shots of fans in the stands; everyone gets excited when they see their face on the Jumbotron.

At it went, the Canadiens didn’t play very well last night. The Stars seemed to have more jump in their step and I’m sure that their time of possession was much longer than the Habs’. The shot count was significantly higher – 40 to 23. The good guys won on the heroics of our sensational goaltender, Carey Price, and at least one lucky bounce.

At any rate, Naomi and I left following the second period. As I said, I was happy to be there but I’m always happier to be fresh in the morning; we are early-to-bedders barring unpreventable events.

As it turned out, we had no need of the more expensive parking spot; we were the only ones leaving the Bell Centre after the second period. The Canadiens weren’t playing great, but they were leading 3-2 and only a foolish Montrealer would consider leaving at a moment like this. (There must have been many a tired kid there; the game ended near 10 pm.)

I did learn how enjoyable the game can be to watch live in person. It is a thrill, in fact. And I did go back to the free food a second time, for another smoked meat sandwich and some nachos. Naomi had a free double-chocolate ice cream cone following the first period as well.

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