The pre-game video at the Bell Centre before the Montreal Canadiens home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night showed highlights that rocked the arena since 1996, and ended with players asking ‘what about tonight?’
For many, it appeared the moment that most would remember would be the introduction of Carey Price, which would have gone on forever if he didn’t choose (or maybe was forced) to leave the scene.
The introductions that followed, with the exception of the players making their NHL debuts, Cole Caufield, Brendan Gallagher, and Nick Suzuki could be classified as mild applause. Considering the team lost all eight of the pre-season games they played and expectations are focused on a rebuild, it’s understandable.
Throughout the night, the Bell Centre slowly started to become the Bell Centre. Cole Caufield’s two goals definitely played a part in getting the crowd into the game, but it felt like the focus of the crowd shifted from ‘we won’t win many games’ to ‘but we can win this game’.
The longer the underdog is in a game, the more they start to believe. You could sense a growing confidence in the Canadiens, and in the crowd. By the time the team killed Jordan Harris’s penalty late in the third period, the crowd was into every scrape of the skate.
With every counter attack the crowd started to hum. It’s a hum that isn’t unique to the Bell Centre, but it was typical Bell Centre. When Josh Anderson unleashed his shot from the slot with 18 seconds remaining, the crowd rose before the puck even hit the back of the net.
In the end, it will likely be a season with more losses than wins, but the Canadiens showed that on any given night, they will be competitive. The crowd showed that they’ll rise to the occasion as well.
After the team’s 10-2 win in the season finale against the Florida Panthers, I wrote that it was a glimpse into the future, with a wink towards the past and it gave everyone a nice present. Between the ovation for Price, Caufield’s two goals, an abundance of youth injected into the lineup, and a win over a rival, Wednesday’s home opener felt like a fitting continuation of that.