1909 Avenue Canadiens-de-Montreal
Metro: Bonaventure, Lucien-L’Allier
Train: Gare Centrale, Lucien-L’Allier
Bus: STM 36, 74, 75, 107, 150, 178, 410, 420, 427, 430, 435, 715, 747, AMT Terminus Centre-ville
Visit: September 29, 2011
You’re probably thinking to yourself that Mr. Lew is now desperate for material. Well, I am not really. On this faithful night, I got the incredible opportunity to go see the Montreal Canadiens play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second to last pre-season game before the 2011-2012 season was to start. Seeing how the Bell Centre has food, I was curious to see how what they served stacked up to other things on the island.
Now, this is technically my first Montreal Canadiens hockey game at the Bell Center, but since this is pre-season, it doesn’t really count for anything. The only time I saw a regular season game was way back in 1993 at the famed Montreal Forum. On that night, the Habs beat the Islanders 5-1. For that game, we didn’t even have our coach or our starting goalie, they were both “injured.” So, you can see why I was over-excited to come here on this evening.
The game night started on a dark, rainy evening, standing waiting outside the building, waiting for my group to be complete. I don’t know what annoyed me more, the rain, the scalpers, or the people smoking a large variety of things around the Bell Center. Armed with only a “free” newspaper, I waited the time necessary and braved the various obstacles around the building before getting to enter. For the Canadiens, it’s still worth it.
Now, we were sitting in the 300s. That could be disappointing, but in reality, you should see the view. You can’t miss anything from up there. The one thing that did get on my nerves are the stairs. They got to be the worse stairs I’ve ever come across anywhere in the city. In combination with the rain from the outside, it was a recipe for disaster. I’m just really lucky that I didn’t trip. But the good thing was that I saw everything without any obstruction at all.
Now, I won’t bore you with the sordid details of the 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but I’ll give you the play by play details of the first intermission, where I decided to go food hunting. As the intermission started, I waited about 2 minutes then decided to get up. I know full well what kind of waiting I was going to be enduring. I walked at bit, going clockwise in the building and found the first concession stand serving food. I saw the line and got comfortable for a long stand. This was good because I had no idea what I was going to have. I would’ve gone for the poutine, if I was willing to go all the way down to the first floor, but I’ll settle for the hockey game norm. After watching people place a lot of money down for cheap food, it was my turn.
Before I discuss my order, this will give me the chance to go on a rant about the Bell Center prices. Since 2003, I’ve been to the Bell Center about half a dozen times for various events. Obviously, the Montreal Canadiens, the Bell Center, and Molson are in dire need for capital because not only do they raise ticket prices so that the normal person can’t afford them, the concessions require you to sign for one of the many credit cards getting hawked in the halls. So, I settled on two hot dogs and a bottle of iced tea for $13.30. I don’t need to write anymore about the value of the food, you already know what I’m thinking. But I’ll say this, we all know we’re getting ripped off, but for the Habs, we’ll take it and ask for more.
This isn’t my first bottle of iced tea at the Bell Center. The first time I bought one, what I found interesting was the fact that they remove the cap before you ever get to touch it. Part of me didn’t understand that move, but the other knew full well that a bottle cap, in the hands of a hockey fan, was dangerous.
The brand or type of the iced tea was something I’ve never seen in vending machines or stores in the Greater Montreal Area. The only time I’ve ever seen this was a the Bell Center. What’s worse is that this tasted like any other ice tea made from the same company. Armed with a giant straw, I drank it, as it lasted the second period.
These hot dogs are topped with mustard and relish.
Hot dogs are not my favorite food, nor are they my least favorite food. As a matter of fact, my visit to the Montreal Forum 19 years ago was graced by the same food. That night, it was just as good coming in as it was, coming back out. I was determined to not have this experience repeated on my latest visit to hockey heaven.
My ideal hot dog isn’t anything complicated but what local Montrealers know as the “steamie.” My hot dog has mustard and coleslaw in it. The bun isn’t toasted, but steamed. There is only one place I’ve ever trusted having hot dogs at and it’s near my house. If I’m only having hot dogs, I can usually put down at least 4 of them. Having said all that, I wasn’t expecting the greatest hot dogs ever.
Normally, I would prefer to go into great detail into what I ate and how I felt about it, but this time, it can be summed up quickly. The bun was toasted and was easy enough to eat quickly. The relish-mustard combination was good and complimented the average hot dog. I’m really lucky they didn’t put ketchup on it. They were not the greatest hot dogs in the world, but enough to not be distracted from what the real purpose of your visit is. After all, it’s the Bell Center, not a restaurant.
Having had the most common dish at the Bell Center and knowing that this won’t be the last time I go there, I have a few thoughts about what I hope to have in the future. The first thing that caught my attention was the offering of smoked meat sandwiches. One of my group noted how they smelled good. After that comment, I made a mental note to make it a point to try them the next time I’m there.
The last thing I thought about was a hypothetical situation. What if the Bell Center served burgers for events? I’m pretty sure they don’t as of this moment. It doesn’t have to be some fancy P.K. Subban approved $100 burger, but something that you can eat quickly during a game. I know there’s a Cage Aux Sports attached to the Bell Center, but I’d like to see them available in the arena itself. So, this is me, Mr. Lew, throwing out the challenge to the Bell Center.