N.B. Large portions of this post are lifted directly from my journal. I meant to post this a long time ago, but never quite got around to typing it up.
Penny of the thousand stories used to tell me how she loved working at rinks – or simply being at rinks. She waxed poetic about the smell of the ice and the sound of skates. I didn’t disbelieve her, but it seemed a little crazy. I mean, I couldn’t very well disbelieve her when I can honestly say I love the way a stable full of horses smells. I just didn’t really get it.
I have since spent quite a few summer Sunday evenings sitting in a rink, soaking in the cold and the smell of the ice at Steph’s ringette practices, listening to the sounds of blades, and sticks and, in this case, rings on the ice, and I understood a bit better.
Then this September, through a pretty incredible series of events, I had the chance to go see a preseason game with
Steph at the Bell Centre. Habs vs Hawks, sitting way up in the rafters. It was amazing.
Well, the game part of it kind of sucked, because the Habs played pretty terribly, but the rest of the experience, that part was amazing. As I said, we were way up in the sky, almost level with the press gallery, but while we were really far away from the ice, it gave us a great view of the plays as they unfolded (or didn’t unfold…as the case might be…).
Also, no amount of hearing how great the Bell Centre is quite prepares one for the sounds of “Fix You” booming over the dark arena, or for when the horn goes off and the crowd erupts. Thanks Zach Kassian. If he did nothing else, he at least ensured that I got to witness a Habs goal at my first game.
It was also pretty special to hear the crowd (thin as it was) come alive for Francis Bouillon when he came out to be acknowledged at the start of the game.
Unfortunately for me, there was no Eller, and no Pacioretty, no Subban, or Christian Thomas, but it was still great. There’ll be other opportunities to see them.
The crowd came alive again when Gabriel Dumont dropped the gloves in defence of his teammate, Ryan Johnston, and again when Jeremy Gregoire dropped the gloves after a terrible hit on Dumont. It was pretty scary.
Other than that, it was a great way to finally understand why people were so grumpy about the way the Habs were playing at the time.
It’s one thing to hear how the Habs had been a perimeter team and know that they had trouble exiting the defensive zone, and another to actually see Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher and Jeff Petry struggle to get past what was essentially the Blackhawk’s AHL team. It was also pretty amazing to get to see Carey Price play, and all the others, even if they were mostly tiny numbers on the ice.
But even at that distance, Plekanec’s stride and Gallagher’s goalie adventures were easily identifiable, as were Emelin’s…defensive…um…adventures of a totally different kind. He’d been looking pretty good all game, not great, but certainly not bad, and then…well…adventures. Frustrating when he essentially was (and is) keeping Jarred Tinordi or Mark Barberio out of a spot.
Nathan Beaulieu looked fantastic, singlehandedly bailing out several veterans, and Brett Lernout looked surprisingly solid for a baby defenceman (it’s also so strange that Beaulieu’s the one taking rookies under his wing when last year, that was basically him).
Regardless of the results, it was hockey at the Bell Centre, and I got to see it.