Montréal might be famous for many things, but one seems to be stand out above the rest – ice-hockey. The Montreal Canadiens are one of the original six in the National Hockey League together with the teams from Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Toronto. Since the end of the Quebec Nordiques, when they moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche, there is only one team in the French-speaking part of Canada, or the LNH as they say. The show is played in the impressive Bell Center, on the outskirt of downtown Montréal. So could we really stay away from this during our visit to Montreal?
Exploring Bell Center
We arrived in Montréal on Sunday night and entering the premises of Bell Center was almost the first thing we did on Monday morning. Only two stops away with the metro from where we were staying in St-Henri it made a perfect first stop in exploring Montréal. As it turned out, this stop added its own input to our plans for the day.
Bell Center, or Centre Bell in French, takes around 21.300 spectators during the ice hockey games. It is the home arena for the Montreal Canadiens since its opening in 1996. The Habs, as the team is known after a misunderstanding of the “H” in the team logo, are popular in the city. Just look at the 14-year streak of sold-out games between 2004 and 2018. It has, however, been a long time since the team and the city got to celebrate the winning of the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens has won the cup more times than any other franchise, but it is now 26 years since the last victory in 1993.
Walking around Bell Center we found the old memorabilia. The history of the team was printed in stone, the statues of the great players such as Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Guy Lafleur. But Bell Center is not looking as much from the outside. What we wanted to do was to see the arena from the inside.
Purchasing Ice Hockey Tickets
It is possible to take a guided tour of the Bell Center. At the time of our visit, the price for the tour was 20 CAD. When asking about the tour we were told that there was actually a pre-season game the same night between the old rivals – the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. We opted for the game instead of the tour as both would give us a chance to see the arena.
There seem to be three ways to buy tickets for the game. First is to queue at the ticket office. We tried this option. While queuing you will encounter the second option, the ticket resellers or ticket touts. They will offer you cheap tickets, but as you might guess that is not a recommended option. Once in the front of the queue and discussing the option with the ticket office, you will probably as we did, notice that the prices are quite high. This left us with the third option, to find internet access and purchase online. The tickets online were higher in the arena than the ones at the ticket office but at half the price. We ended up paying around 60 CAD per person including taxes and fees. I would consider it expensive, but not so much more expensive than the short tour. We really felt lucky that we happened to be there at a day that they were actually playing – be it a pre-season game.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens – A Pre-season Game
Is there any hockey game that could be considered more classic than the one between Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens? We could only think of a handful of competitors in the NHL. With the tickets purchased we continued to explore Montréal for a few more hours before it was time to get ready to go back to Bell Center.
Arriving at the arena there was one thing I really wanted and that was to get a Montreal Canadiens jersey. It might be a bit touristy and all, but it is, in my opinion, a perfect souvenir. It also included a few short conversations with the locals who then thought that I spoke French. Sitting at sector 415 with only one line of seats further back than us turned out to be great. We could really get a perfect view of the ice as well as to enjoy the view of the rest of the arena. Already at this point, we experienced what wanted all along, to enjoy the arena when it was filling up with spectators. It might not have been completely full, but it was still enough people to create a nice atmosphere.
So, how about the game? Both teams had let most of their better players rest. We were instead left with players that most will probably not play in the NHL during the next season. With that said, there was a bit of action on the ice. Sadly not enough to convince make the crowd happy. Even less so with the Maple Leafs winning by 3-0 after two goals from Egor Korshkov and one from Darren Archibald. However, we will remember this game for a long time as the game where we got to enter the Bell Center.
We will continue our trip, read more about our adventure in North America here >>