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Thread: A Stroke of Luck

  
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    A Stroke of Luck

    A Stroke of Luck
    By Karine Hains

    It started like a regular Friday morning at work, stacks of case law to be read and analyzed before writing up just another report until my cell rang. Normally, if I do not know the number which shows on the caller ID, I don't pick up but this time I did and boy was I glad I did. Turns out that at the end of the line was Jany-Čve Saucier a coordinator of promotions and fan development for the Montreal Canadiens. Why was she calling you ask? Well, she had good news, I had won the “First Line to the Top” contest for the game of January 26th against the Colombus Blue Jacket. If you've read my last article, you know that the Montreal Canadiens have a fan club called Club 1909 which is free to join but that for a one time 30$ fee you can be a premium member and for a 100$ fee per year you can be a First Line member which comes with many benefits, one of the said benefits is to be able to enter the monthly “First Line to the Top” contest.



    Ms. Saucier explained to me that I had won the privilege to go behind the scenes at the Bell Centre and watch the next home game from the press gallery. For most fans, that would be awesome, for a fan like me who was torn between law and journalism when it came time to chose a career path, it was even better! In a nutshell, my guest and I would get to go through the media entrance, have a short tour of the media area at the Bell Centre, watch the game from the press gallery and go to the directors lounge in between periods for free food and drinks. Needless to say I was over the moon and for the first time in, well forever, I was actually wishing the weekend away.

    Tuesday finally came around and we left work at 1.00 PM since getting to downtown Montreal from Quebec City can take up to 3 hours but the experience was well worth the half day off. We got to the Bell Centre at quarter to 4 with plenty of time to hit the Habs Zone for a couple of souvenirs and La Cage aux Sports for a pregame meal. As instructed, we made our way to the media entrance at 6.45 PM and we were taken on the promised tour. We saw the players wives lounge (which is basically a place where the players' wives can watch the game in peace), the former player lounge (as soon as someone has played 48 games in the Habs' uniform they can go and watch the games there – of course, not all former players use that facility, who doesn't remember seeing Le Gros Bill in his seat behind the bench for so many years) and then we walked by the press conference room and the journalists' desks area. After that, we saw the Jacques Beauchamp room which is a restaurant reserved to journalists, we were given some snacks and bottled water to enjoy during the first period. And then, we were finally taken to the press gallery.

    I must admit that I was surprised at the size of it. The gallery is suspended above the ice in such a way that you get the perfect view point. Yes it is as high as the nosebleed seats but it is nearer to the ice as it is just above the boards giving you the best possible view. There is not an inch of the ice you cannot see. If the play is right by the boards, there are some regular seats from which you can't see the play develop but from that high, you see everything as it happens. In total there are 300 seats on the press gallery and during the playoffs they are all taken. As this was a Tuesday night game against Columbus it was not the case but we still walked all the way around and noticed that certain seats are reserved. For instance, RDS and TVA sports have assigned seats and the same goes for the people who work for the Canadiens website. We also saw the rooms reserved to the Habs coaching staff (caught a glimpse of Stephane Waite as he was entering), the visiting coaching staff, the NHL officials and the radio studio. Behind that area was a staircase which lead to the RDS and TVA Sports broadcasting booth. At the other end of the press gallery, we came across the organist spot and we got to meet Diane Bibeau, the official Habs' organ player who has played for them for over 30 years.


    Having been all the way around the gallery, we made our way to our reserved Club 1909 seat (we crossed RDS' François Gagnon on the way there) and settled down to watch the warm up. I've been to my fair share of hockey games but never was I able to see everything so well. In a weird way, I felt like I was getting a private show even if there were over 21,000 people in attendance at the game. Unfortunately, the Habs played on that night just like they've been playing on most nights since the start of December and they found themselves down 2-0 after 20 minutes. Even though that was hardly the outcome I wanted I still enjoyed every minute of it.
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    When the horn indicated the end of the first, our guide took us down to the Directors' Lounge told us that we could order anything we wanted food was on the left and drinks were on the right and that everything was on the house. She added that we could stay there for as long as we wanted as there were screens and couches all around the room and since alcohol was not allowed on the press gallery. Now, don't get me wrong I do enjoy a drink (or two) but if you give me a choice between free beer and the best seats in the house, i'm going to pick the seats every single time. We drank our beer in 10 minutes as the minutes were winding down and we didn't want to miss the start of the second. We exited the lounge and our guide was nowhere to be found...although she had told us she'd meet us there to take us back to the gallery we decided to make our own way back. Even though it was a right maze, we managed to find our way back almost in time for the start of the 2nd, in fact we only missed 22 seconds of action. 5 minutes later, our guide turned up and breathed a sigh of relief that we were there and not lost somewhere in the building. The second frame was kinder to the Habs as Devante Smith-Pelly scored their first goal to make it 2-1 but it only took 5 minutes before Dubinsky scored again to give the Jackets their 2 goal lead back. A bit nearer to the end of the second 20, the locals (and their 21,000 fans) thought they had scored again but the referees disagreed...After video review, the call on the ice stood and there was no goal cue the loudest boos I've ever heard in my life. During that period, the Blue Jackets got 3 penalties and the Habs power play was not able to convert, the impatience was palpable as the fans were very much displeased. For the first time in my life, I heard the Bell Centre crowd boo not only the inefficient power play but also P.K. Subban. Being on the press gallery, we had to be neutral but even if I didn't have to be, I would never have booed my own team and its best player (let's face it he leads the team in points and Price is still on the injured list) in that manner. We went back down to the Directors' lounge to enjoy some more drinks and this time, when we came back, our guide was there (she might have been worried that we decided to make a break for the locker room – perhaps she had heard my suggestion that we should go down there and go full-on “Jacques Mercier” on the players).

    Early in the third, the Canadiens' power play finally managed to produce a goal thanks to a one timer from Galchenyuk's stick but that was to be the only happy moment of the period (I confess, we did high five on that goal – neutrality is not my strong suit). The score stood at 3-2 Jackets for quite a while but it got ugly towards the end and the Canadiens conceded 2 more goals which were met by yet another chorus of boos. In the end, that night I saw my team get destroyed by the Blue Jackets on home ice but to be honest, I didn't really care. Yes it was the worst I've ever seen them play and that included two very bad turnovers by P.K. Subban but strangely, I didn't even care. Normally I would have been in an awful mood driving back down to Quebec but not on that night, the unprecedented access we enjoyed made it such a memorable experience that this is what I will remember much more so than the outcome of the game. Besides, it's rather hard to complain when you get to see the game for free and have an access you never thought you'd have in your life. One thing's for sure, I will carry on entering the First Line to the Top monthly contest even though chances are I won't win again...and why should I really? One shouldn't get greedy...

    Last edited by Pheebs888; 11-21-2016 at 10:06 PM.

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    Cool story!!
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