a, Sports

Behind enemy lines

“Hey Boston Bruins, get out of the way!” yelled a gruff Quebecer, laughing at my dad posing in black and gold next to a statue of Maurice “The Rocket” Richard outside the Bell Centre. He had insisted we pose next to the Canadiens legend, which would not have been so bad if my mother knew how to work an iPhone camera. She finally got the picture she wanted, and I waved a hand in silent embarrassment at the now long queue of Montreal fans, waiting to get their picture taken with the statue. We walked toward the main gates to watch the Penguins-Habs game on Hockey Night in Canada.

Several months ago, when I knew my parents were going to be coming to Montreal for the first weekend of Reading Week, I offhandedly suggested to my dad that we try to get Habs tickets. Each year I’ve been at McGill, I’ve managed to go to one game. I had already seen the Canadiens beat Winnipeg earlier in the season, but knowing my dad’s affinity for hockey, and inability to resist the prospect of experiencing true Canadian culture, I thought I’d propose the idea. We looked at the schedule and saw that the Penguins were coming to town. The thought of seeing the greatest modern hockey player—Sidney Crosby—on my mom’s hometown team was enough to convince them both to purchase tickets. Through some glitch in Stub Hub’s system, we scored four tickets for the price of three, closer to the ice than the original seats we had tried to buy.

The Bell Centre was a sea of red, white, and blue with a surprising amount of black and gold peppered throughout. Enthusiastic staff members in yellow shirts greeted us with loud cheers as we took the escalator up to our seats. It turned out our “better seats” were only about ten rows from the nosebleed section in the Best Buy Family Zone. It didn’t matter; from that angle, we could see the whole rink.

After a long-winded intro, where every Habs player was given equal share of the highlight reel, came the performance of the American and Canadian national anthems. “The Star Spangled Banner” always causes my chest to swell with patriotic pride, but it doesn’t feel like a proper hockey game without a hearty rendition of “O Canada.” The performance was definitely less awkward than the last game I attended, when the Quebecois separatist next to me booed throughout the entire song.

The game turned out to be the highest-scoring game I’ve ever seen live. When the Habs scored, the stadium erupted; everyone jumped out of their chairs, high-fived, and cheered. When the Penguins scored, my mom was the only one in our section to let out a belated whoop and fist pump.

Going into the game, Crosby had tallied 31 points on the season, but the superstar was barely noticeable on the ice. Nonetheless, he seemed to always be in the right position and tallied two assists and a goal off a rebounded shot by Kris Letang. Ultimately, the Pens’ Brandon Sutter scored the overtime goal—his second of the night—to claim victory for the Pens, causing the Habs fans to silently file out of the stadium.

Walking out onto Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal, I heard a mixture of voices speaking in French and English, talking about the game. I smiled to myself, as we walked past the statue of Richard, feeling somewhat closer to the habitants of Montreal.

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