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Travel Guide | A Pilgrimage to the Hockey Mecca

Travel Guide | A Pilgrimage to the Hockey Mecca

Travel Guide | A Pilgrimage to the Hockey Mecca 1

A Pilgrimage to the Hockey Mecca

Anyone visiting Montreal should know that hockey is nothing short of a religion here. It is the Mecca of hockey, and the Bell Centre is its temple. The arena is home to the Montreal Canadiens (also known as the Habs), record holders of the most number of Stanley Cup wins.

The Habs have won the Stanley Cup 24 times, and every home game is an intense experience with crowds buzzing with energy. A sure bet for a unique experience while visiting Montreal.

Inside the Bell Centre – The home of the Montreal Canadiens

Covid-19 Forces a New Format in the NHL

For the 2020-21 season a new format has been adopted in the National Hockey League (NHL) schedule due to the extraordinary circumstances (Covid-19). Normally, teams play all other teams during the regular season.

For the upcoming season, teams will only play those within their division. There will be one All-Canadian division (North Division) playing nine or ten times against each other. The East, Central and West Division will face rival teams within each division a total of eight times. The top four teams from each division qualify for the playoffs and make up the 16 playoff teams.

2020-21 NHL divisions NHL officially rolls out plan for 56-game 2020-21 season
The NHL realigned its four divisions, including an all-Canadian division (”The North”)

All teams will host games in their respective home arena, including the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. If circumstances require, then so-called sports bubbles, or hub cities, will be created in areas where the number of Covid-19 cases are low. These bubbles are restricted to players, management and workers. In this scenario, matches will likely be off-limits for regular visitors due to quarantine restrictions.

Habs Chances for the 2021/22 Season

GM Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens had a very busy off-season assembling a roster to help the team go deeper into the playoff rounds. The roster for the upcoming season is by far the best of the Bergevin era spending the total salary cap allocated to a team.

Additions include goaltender Jake Allen, forwards Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli and Corey Perry. On defence Michael Frolik and Joel Edmundson were added. It will be interesting to see how back up goalie Allen will be used alongside Carey Price in nets. Both are considered starting goaltenders in the NHL.

Travel Guide | A Pilgrimage to the Hockey Mecca 2
The Canadiens’ Carey Price is the best goalie, according to players around the NHL

The only significant cost for completing the new roster was the trading of Max Domi to Columbus. The feeling everyone has for the game opener on January 13th is one of excitement. We are in for an entertaining season with a young, untested roster that may surprise everyone and go deep into the playoffs and perhaps even win the holy grail which the team and its fans have not seen parade down Ste Catherine Street since 1993!

Why Go On a Pilgrimage to Montreal for Hockey

Hockey is a winter sport, and as such, you would have to visit Montreal during the cold, snowy winter months when the temperature is on average -9 degrees celsius. You can experience hockey in its purest form together with thousands of fans.

To put things into perspective, there are 275 outdoor rinks around the city in Winter. Hockey is the talk of the town, and everyone is interested to some degree. Hockey fan or not, when visiting during the colder months you its a must to get in on the action. It is a memorable experience full of positivity regardless of the game’s outcome and the Habs fans’ mood. Besides, you can still do a lot of what you would do in Montreal during its warm Summer months (June-August), as Montreal’s social scene has adapted well to life year-round.

Outdoor skating rinks to open in Montreal this winter
The City of Montreal reminds skaters to respect coronavirus safety guidelines

Hoping for the Best: Tickets to Enter the Temple

Assuming the world manages to beat the Covid-19 pandemic as early as the first half of this year, travelling will be on everyone’s list. Montreal being the second most populous city in Canada, with close to 2 million citizens and only 21,000 seats in the Bell Centre, tickets can be hard to come by.

The world is bound to get back to normal, so once this happens and you plan a trip to Montreal, look out for tickets online far in advance to secure seats to the game. If you are spontaneous or missed out on getting some in advance, there is still a chance to secure seats. The Habs organization will release tickets on game day that is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Montreal Canadiens tickets at the Bell Centre
Founded in 1909, the Habs are the longest operating professional ice hockey team

Habs Game Night

If you spent the day in downtown Montreal, the game’s arena is nearby. It is located on the corner of Avenue des Canadiens de Montreal and De La Montagne Street. If you are further away from the Bell Centre, it is advised to plan the trip to avoid traffic during the peak hours. It is recommended to arrive an 1 hour before the start of the game. Lines are long, and there is a long walk to your seats.

You may also want to visit some fan shops and get some food to eat in your seats. Hanging out in the arena is a big part of the experience. If you didn’t have supper prior to the game, there are food and drinks stands accessible throughout the game. Beware that the food is typically the type of food served at arenas – overpriced.  But the selection is vast, and you can eat hot dogs (aka steamies), burgers, tacos or even fresh poke bowls in its food court. Everyone should have a hot dog from their seat and overpriced draft beer to get the full experience. But hold on to your beer cup when Habs score a goal. The arena will explode with cheers and standing crowds. Oh and a heads up the liquor and beer stands shut at 10pm!

Let's go all the way! Habs 2020-21 season
Habs ready to do some serious damage in an all-Canadian division they expect will be as competitive, if not more competitive as the three others in the league

Hopefully, the Habs will win the game in a shootout, maximizing the time at the arena before you step out in the subzero temperatures of Montreal. Beware that everyone is exiting at once and that it tends to get a bit cramped when leaving the Bell Centre.

Montreal’s home games can be enjoyed from October through April and experiencing them live is a must if you visit Montreal during the cold winter months. Here are some take out and delivery ideas during your visit of Old Montreal.

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