Monday, November 30, 2009

DCLS on the Road: Caps vs. Canadiens in Montreal

Ever wondered what a black hole would sound like if one materialized before you? Here's my guess: it would sound something like the noise emitted by the 20,000 French Canadians at Bell Centre on Saturday night.

When Eric Fehr scored the game-tying goal in the closing seconds of regulation, the disbelief was palpable; the utter vacuum of sound that swallowed up the seating bowl was pierced only by the screams of the elated Capitals and Washington loyalists scattered throughout, including your DC Landing Strip correspondent.

The view from section 401 during the anthems.

The Hockey Night in Canada crowd was 15 seconds away from celebrating a satisfying come-from-behind victory in which they had kept the high-octane Caps to a measly 11 shots on goal through 40 minutes; it was all erased, thanks to some guy named Fehr, who nudged a rebound backhanded through Carey Price's pads. It was a thoroughly undeserved victory for the Caps, and it was friggin' awesome.

Some additional thoughts on the Bell Centre experience:
  • We know Ovechkin's a league-wide star, but I didn't realize the magnitude of his appeal until I was treated like a returning war hero while wearing my red No. 8 sweater in the upper bowl. "You're from Washington?" a disbelieving, awestruck teen in a white Ovie sweater asked me after we exchanged some pro-Capitals pleasantries. "Yeah," I replied, "what about you?" "I'm from here," he said, "I just love Ovechkin." Similar exchanges happened more than once.
  • "Washington Suck!" Try saying that in your best (worst) Francophone dialect and you'll know how I felt during one or two rare occasions.
  • That being said, I've endured my share of heckling while wearing enemy colors before; I experienced almost none at Bell Centre on Saturday. The fans couldn't have been more knowledgeable, good-natured and welcoming to a visitor.
  • The Montreal faithful still haven't forgiven Jose Theodore.
  • The Habs sure do love their history: their pre-game video began with more than 10 minutes remainging on the center ice scoreboard, and they scrolled the names of each of the more-than 700 players who have donned le bleu, blanc et rouge over the team's 100 seasons.
  • The upper deck is extremely roomy, like sitting in first-class compared to the Verizon Center's coach.
  • The ice surface in Montreal is mic'ed by a series of suspended microphones; even if you're sitting in the second-to-last row of the building, you can hear every scrape, stick tap and tape-to-tape pass like you're sitting on the bench. How about it, Ted?
  • "You'll notice, we don't hang Eastern Conference Champion banners here in Montreal."
  • As for the game-day atmosphere, Centre Bell is no louder during a 0-0 game than Verizon Center, but here's the difference: every scoring chance or key save is met by a sharp, immediate outburst by nearly everyone in the stands. Everyone is paying attention at all times. Number of fans I saw on the BlackBerry during gameplay? Zero.
  • At the same time, I was disappointed to see the Montreal faithful start "The Wave."
  • Three Stars: Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin both skated onto the ice and acknowledged the crowd after being announced as the third and first stars of the game. When was the last time a visiting player took a spin on the ice at VC after getting a star?
  • Concourse clocks indicate how much time remains before the end of intermission. Nice touch.
All in all, it was a good night for the Capitals in a game they surely did not deserve to win. Regardless of the result, if you have the opportunity to catch the Capitals (or any team) in Canada, you owe it to yourself to see how the nation that invented the sport presents it for the faithful.


  1. I was at the game...albeit as a Habs fan from DC...never saw the wave. But everything else? Completely true.

    Everyone should see a game in MTL once. If only to understand what it's like to be surrounded by fans who know that a "goal" in a shootout doesn't count as part of a hat-trick. (Embarrassing, Caps fans, embarrassing.)

  2. Similar to my experience last year, though I was most surprised by the spirit squad in the upper decks. You'd think it was unnecessary for a place like Montreal to have such beautiful babes in tight clothes giving away free beer. Hmm, on second thought....


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