Montreal's Bell Centre is located here in the Mecca of hockey - Montreal, and is the home
of hockey's most storied franchise - the Montreal Canadiens. This arena opened in March
of 1996, in one of the most solemn of ceremonies as the team's 24 Stanley Cup banners and
the retired numbers of their icons of icons were brought over from the Forum and hung
here to remind everyone that this is no ordinary NHL arena.

Getting to the venue
The facility is located in the middle of downtown Montreal, adjacent to a number of top
hotel properties and just a few blocks from the fabulous Rue St. Catherine, the hub of
Montreal's shopping and nightlife. Surface parking and ramp parking is close to the arena,
with some parking running as high as Cdn$15. The best way to go to the arena is by taking
the subway... easy access to the building is available from the underground Metro station
(Bonaventure or Lucien-L'Allier stations). Underground causeways will take you right into
the building without having to set foot outside. The Windsor rail station is right next door,
offering commuter service from points outside Montreal into the arena and the city center.

Outside the venue
The building itself is tightly bound by four city streets, therefore providing little area for a
public plaza or open gathering area outside. The Rue de la Gauchetiere entrance on the
north side serves as the building's main entrance, and this is where you can find the
outside entrances to the team store, called the Canadiens Boutique, and a sports bar
named La Cage Aux Sports, both open both during the games on non event days.

The building  is tall and high, due to the constriction of space, and this makes for a very
massive and imposing building. Bars, restaurants, shopping, hotels and nightlife are all
within easy walking distance, or via the Metro system, with access to downtown Montreal's
vast underground concourse network. This is a vibrant, bustling and electric city, and with
French bring the primary language, a city with a European feel.

The arena and concourses
First of all let's say this - very narrow concourses for an arena this new. Navigating the
concourses is a difficult chore here. Again, this is due to the fact that this building was put
up within the constraints of a narrow city block, and the configuration of the building is a
vertical one. In a couple of nooks, restrooms are actually accessible only via a staircase. To
add to the congestion, there are lots of pillars in the way as well. Throw in concession lines
and it is virtual gridlock. Gratefully, since our first visit here the Province of Quebec
enacted strict new smoking restrictions, so the puffers are now relegated to outdoor spots
to indulge in their favorite passion.

The bowl
21,273 seats - Yikes! This is one big place. The lower bowl goes up some 30 rows, and then
there is a club level, which is high enough to be in the 300s in most other arenas. And yes,
they even have a 400 level here! The seating pitch is very steep here in all three levels, so
fans are really on top of the action. We made the trek to the top of the building, and after
catching our breath we came to realize the bar has been raised for nosebleeds in hockey.
The seats are wine red, with the upper deck seats colored grey and blue, somewhat
reminiscent of the colors in the old Forum. A press gondola hangs from the rafters all
around the seating bowl, partially obstructing the panoramic view of the bowl from the
highest seats. In the center is an 8 sided scoreboard, and a 360 degree digital LED board
wraps around the club level balcony. Backlit ad panels and small dot matrix information
boards can be found along the upper level balcony.

Club seating
The Air Canada Club is in the 200 club section and the club concourse lounges, named Le
Pub, resemble an english tudor inn. The Classe Affaires Restaurant serves up fine dining
with a great view to the outside. Complimentary concession food is available to all club
seat holders. Another upscale restaurant, La Mise au Jeu, is located off the main
concourse on the ground floor, with mahogany woodwork and furnishings, nicely
appointed decor, and attractive lounge areas and light fare offered, including carvery and
pasta stations. This restaurant is named after a similar facility brought in the old Forum, and
is open to all ticket holders.

Concessions
Good luck finding any variety of food items here. Plenty of concession stands, but they all
serve the same
ballpark dreck....the overwhelming majority being hot dog stands. The
specialty food item in Montreal is their famous Smoked Meat, and there is one stand here
that sells this delicacy, just down the staircase near section 105. The main team store is
called the Canadiens Boutique, and many satellite souvenir shops are scattered
throughout the facility. The sports bar is called La Cage Aux Sports, and is also located on
the 100 level.

Banners/retired numbers
Ah yes - no silliness here. Montreal's 24 Stanley Cup banners provide an imposing
backdrop, and add to that the names of eleven - only eleven of their greatest stars -  
M.Richard, H. Richard, Beliveau, Lafleur, Harvey, Vezina, Plante and Moore among them.
There is also a large exhibit in the 100 level concourse, showcasing many more of their
greats with bronze plaques and biographies. This team presents its proud tradition very well.
Added later was a single banner commemorating the MLB Montreal Expos... "1969-2004",
with the team crest and numbers of their four greatest players. Very nice!!!

One quick note to think about....it's been 14 years since this franchise last won a Stanley
Cup....almost unimaginable isn't it!

Hat tricks, assists, penalties...

Hat trick... to the old Montreal Forum at the corner of Rue Atwater and Ste. Catherine. The
old arena has been gutted and turned into a retail and entertainment complex, yet the
actual center face off circle has been marked and maintained, surrounded by some of the
old seats and enough memorabilia to make the ghosts in this storied building come alive.
Still a must visit for the devoted hockey fan.

Hat trick... nothing to do with the hockey experience here, but you gotta try the Smoked
Meat, a tried and true Montreal delicacy. These sandwiches are similar to NYC deli corned
beef, but have their own distinctive taste. Head over to Schwartz' Deli or La Main, both on
Boul. St. Laurent just north of downtown.

Penalty - to the audio people at the Bell Centre. On our second visit here, they opened
"Hockey Day in Canada", the first of an all-Canada tripleheader, with a rendition of "Oh
Canada" in three languages, Inuit, French and English, shown on the video board via
satellite and performed by a children's choir in Iqaluit, Nunavut. We saw them on the
screen just fine but due to a glitch, never got to hear them perform. What a disappointment!

Assist -
le karma du dernieres nouvelle sportives de route et mises a jour makes its way to the
Bell Centre as the Canadiens down the Edmonton Oilers on this afternoon by a 3-2 count.
Ole!!

Assist - The dredlocks of Edmonton forward Anson Carter....we don't think words can
describe it....so we won't bother, definitely very unique to say the very least!

Assist - The Canadiens have adoped the former mascot of the Montreal Expos - Youppi!
Youppi entertains the fans and a children's play area called Youppiville contains games and
nice exhibits commemorating the MLB Expos and their time here.

Assist - ole-ole....OLE-OLE-OLE-OLE!!! This chant from the stands only adds to the unique
European flair of this great city. Speaking of unique....

Penalty - Where the heck was the violin player in the stands!!!! A truly different aspect of
our first visit here was nowhere to be seen or heard....bring him back IMMEDIATELY!!!

Penalty - Yes it gets cold in the wintertime, especially in Canada....but negative DOUBLE
DIGITS Fahrenheit for goodness sakes!! All right so it was in the minus single digits on
game day, but strong gusts of wind made vital functions such as breathing a difficult chore
while walking outside.

Summary
Because this is Montreal, and these are the Canadiens, a visit here automatically becomes
a special one, simply because of this franchises' great and storied history. Attending a
Canadiens game, seeing those banners, feeling the sense of history, singing the national
anthem in French... it is all enough to give one chills. That being said, the Bell Centre does
not make it to the top of our list, due to the negatives of the design and the atrocious lack
of wide public spaces in the building. But this is still Montreal, a world class city, and these
are still the Canadiens, so we would recommend making the trip here and checking it all  
out for yourself. We'll make it back here again, you can be sure of it!

SCORING:
Architecture 5
Food and team store 4
Scoreboard and electronics 6
Ushers 7
Fan support 8
Location and neighborhood 7.5
Banners and history 10
In game entertainment 6
Concourses/fan comfort 4
Bonus: Old Montreal Forum still open 1; Montreal European flavour 2;
Attention to team history 3
Total: 63.5


-profile updated January 22, 2007
Bell Centre
#13   




Molson
Centre   




Montreal,
Quebec   




October
16,
1999




Buffalo
Sabres
at
Montreal
Canadiens




return visits



February 15,
2003
Edmonton Oilers
at Montreal
Canadiens

January
20, 2007
Buffalo
Sabres at
Montreal
Canadiens

March 25,
2014
Buffalo Sabres at
Montreal
Canadiens




(renamed Bell
Centre, summer
2002)