Home Away From Home

For some teams, it’s hard to draw fans to the rink on a regular basis. For many of them, the visitors are important financially when they come to their building. Keeping a balance to make it look like it’s a home game is sometimes… challenging at best. It’s the case when the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens are visitors and it is particularly obvious when those teams visit Western Canada for their annual trip. For one, Jesperi Kotkaniemi is experiencing the power of the Habs’ fan base outside of Montreal for the very first time and judging from his permanent smile, he doesn’t seem to mind at all.

And it is not only in Western Canada. Ottawa and Toronto fans don’t like when their home rinks feel like Habsland. It even spreads to the States where you don’t need to look very far back to notice this amazing phenomenon. It’s not too long ago that in Tampa Bay, the Lightning were restricting the purchase of tickets to the Tampa area via postal codes (or zip codes in the US) to avoid Habs’ fans buying tickets to games between the two teams.

Or do you remember this campaign from the New York Islanders posted on their official website, fed up with the fact that Habs’ fans would louder than their own?

Yes, sometimes teams have to decide between making fists-full of money and the experience for their own fans, for their own players to feel… at home when the Canadiens are visitors. Really, think about it. Is there something more annoying, when you pay big bucks to go to a game, than visitors’ fans cheering their team on right beside you? Well imagine when you have thousands of them in your own rink!

For the very first time, I will get to experience this when I take on the game between the Canadiens and the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena today. I am told that 60-70% of the crowd is wearing red. With BC Boys Carey Price, Shea Weber, Karl Alzner, Jordie Benn, Noah Juulsen, and with players with BC ties like Brendan Gallagher and Mike Reilly having tickets for friends and family, that alone will be red. I know that I will, with my Canadiens vintage red jersey… and I also know that given the chance, I will be chanting the OlĂ©, OlĂ©-OlĂ©-OlĂ© and the Go Habs Go! And guess what? I will make no apology about it. 

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One Down, Six To Go: Kotkaniemi Scores!

KotkaniemiPreSeason

Pre-season is upon us and the Montreal Canadiens got things going against the New Jersey Devils last night, in a game that won’t be remembered passed then next game… except for Habs’ prospect and league’s third overall pick at the last NHL Draft, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who got a feel for what it’s like to score goals at the Bell Centre. And judging from his smile, it’s something he quite enjoyed and could get used to.

After the Devils, who were then leading 1-0 in the third period, got a goal called back – which should have counted by the way – the Canadiens took over the game with three goals in just over a minute and that was enough to bring hope to fans in dire need of something positive after a very disappointing season last year. Antti Niemi and Charlie Lindgren split the duty in net while Charles Hudon, Victor Mete – on a nice feed by Michael Chaput – and Kotkaniemi found the back of the net for the Habs. Unfortunately for the Canadiens however, rugged winger Nicolas Deslauriers left the game and was taken to hospital for precautionary measures after taking a solid right in a fight that he eventually won.

Mission accomplished

A few players stood out from the crowd in this game:

Charles Hudon was all over the puck and had a few solid scoring chances before eventually scoring from a tough angle.

The pairing of Victor Mete and Noah Juulsen was solid, picking up where they left off last season. Mete could have scored another goal but was robbed in the slot earlier in the game.

Michael Chaput is proving to be a very versatile player by winning puck battles, killing penalties and setting up Mete on a beautiful feed, all of that while playing a physical game.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi is gaining in confidence. Prior to scoring his goal, he set up Hudon with a nifty backhand pass. While far from dominant (yet), he was also solid in his zone and showed flashes of what he can do.

It will now be time for group B to show what they can do when the Canadiens take on the Florida Panthers on Thursday night also at the Bell Centre. Game starts at 7:30 PM and it is televised on RDS and TSN2. Go Habs Go!