Gorman: Bell Centre provides a celebration of hockey
TribLIVE Sports Videos
MONTREAL — I was in awe from the anthem.
The Montreal Canadiens fans that packed Bell Centre bellowed out every word of the national anthem, with an enthusiasm exceeded only by their passion for the playoff hockey that followed for the next 2 1⁄2 hours.
Not O Canada, mind you, but the Star-Spangled Banner .
Oh, I'll say what I saw on my first trip to the hockey capital: a celebration of sport that left me wide-eyed in wonder, surpassed in volume of sporting events I've covered only by the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup Final.
And this is the second round.
"They're awesome here. They're into it," said Canadiens defenseman and alternate captain Hal Gill, who spent the previous two seasons playing for the Penguins at Mellon Arena. "We had a good run in Pittsburgh and the fans were great, but you get here and it's a different level."
What you get here are knowledgeable fans that appreciate hockey on every level. They cheer the nuances of the game — from every check and chip to every shot and save — which can be both a blessing and a curse.
"I feel like there's a lot more hanging on every play because they focus on every play," Gill said. "It could be something as simple as, did it get out over the blue line or not• The crowd reacts to that. At Mellon Arena, they're into the game and yelling and screaming, but it's not as defined a moment."
The commotion created at Bell Centre can be both amusing and confusing for visitors. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, a childhood fan of the Canadiens, believes there is a distinguishable difference between the momentum of the game and the momentum created by the crowd.
"The hits always seem bigger and a shot from the point seems like it's a breakaway," Crosby said. "As long as you're aware of that and you're able to separate that, you're fine."
Winger Matt Cooke said Penguins players were talking after Tuesday's 2-0 victory in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series about how the boisterous behavior inside Bell Centre can border on the ridiculous.
"They get the puck in a 1-on-3 in the neutral zone and the crowd's going crazy," Cooke said. "Sometimes, it seems worse than it actually is."
That's part of the charm of the building.
But defenseman Kris Letang, one of a handful of French-Canadians on the Penguins roster who grew up rooting for Montreal, doesn't find it funny.
"You can't really laugh," Letang said. "When you're in the game, you feel a lot worse. You think they're attacking with three and you've only got one guy. You get nervous about that. That's what the building brings. They're really loud and they make us feel like we're in trouble all the time.
"The atmosphere in the building, it's just amazing."
The history isn't.
There are 24 Stanley Cup championship banners hanging in Bell Centre, including one from 1915-16, before the NHL existed. The Canadiens won 10 Cup titles between '65 and '79, but none since '93. That was three years before this building replaced the Forum as their home ice.
That's not all Montreal is missing.
Like Steelers Nation, the fans here have no perspective. Generations have been raised on the game, most with the expectation that the Canadiens will win it all. Anything short of a Stanley Cup championship is a disappointment, and any obstacle is voiced with deep displeasure.
"You know how you're playing when you're here," Gill said. "They turn on you."
Including a series-tying 3-2 win over the Penguins last night, the Canadiens have lost in five of their past seven home playoff games, dating to last year, and seven of their past nine. The other victory in that span came in Game 6 of their first-round series against Washington, when Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak made an incredible 53 saves. Halak is now a local hero, but one expected to play like a combination of Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy every night.
When he didn't in Game 3 of the first round, Halak was booed off the ice.
That makes this place as dangerous for the home team as it does the visitors.
Still, at this time of the year, it's something to behold.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Carcillo has no hard feelings after failing to make roster
- Pens look to buck shots, goals trend
- Predators winger Neal caught ‘blindsided’ by trade from Penguins
- Penguins notebook: Malkin returns to center
- Penguins notebook: Johnston blends music, practice for local students
- Testing legs, giving backup goalie a chance are Penguins’ priorities
- Penguins notebook: Newcomers get 1st taste of rivalry with Flyers
- Bortuzzo could provide much-needed physical presence for Penguins
- Rossi: Fleury is, and will remain, Penguins’ soul
- Flyers continue mastery of Penguins at Consol
- Metropolitan Division holding own in early part of season