Sports Canadiens' success leading to business boom for Montreal bars after COVID-19 closures
Canadiens Notebook: Was Bob Gainey's speech the first of many?
Brendan Gallagher probably wasn’t supposed to mention that Bob Gainey had spoken with the Canadiens at their Brossard practice facility. But Gallagher let it out when he spoke with the media Wednesday on a video conference. “You talk about experience, there’s not a lot of organizations that can fall on alumni with the amount of experience that this one can, and we were fortunate to have one in the building today,” Gallagher said Wednesday in announcing that Gainey made a speech to the team.
MONTREAL — Kevin Beaudry says there has never been a better time to be operating a restaurant in Montreal.
The manager of La Cage sports bar and restaurant at the Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens, said he knew customers would return when the government last month allowed restaurants to reopen from COVID-19 closures.
But business at the sports bar, which has become a hub for fans during the Stanley Cup playoffs, has been 10 times what he expected — thanks to the success of the Canadiens, he said Wednesday.
"We were just excited to have our regular guests back and have people in seats and getting our staff, hiring them back and now we've had to bring people out of retirement to come and help us out because we're overwhelmed with business because of the Habs," he said.
Golden Knights at Canadiens: Five things you should know
Here are five things you should know about Game 3 of the Montreal Canadiens-Las Vegas Golden Knights best-of-seven Stanley Cup semifinal series at the Bell Centre Friday (8 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN-690 Radio, 98.5 FM). Home-ice advantage: One of the keys to success in the playoffs is to win a game or two on the road and the Canadiens accomplished that with a split of the first two games in Las Vegas. The Golden Knights were the dominant team in Game 1 with a 4-1 victory , but the Canadiens bounced back Wednesday with a 3-2 win . The split gives the Canadiens the home-ice advantage for the series with three of the remaining games scheduled for the Bell Centre.
The hockey team is now one win away from the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1993.
At La Cage, customers are being told to show up before 3 p.m. if they want to get a table to watch Thursday's game — five hours before the puck drops.
"The Canadiens have a worldwide history and they have many followers, not just here, all across Canada and we've become pretty much Canada central right here," Beaudry said. "I think everybody kind of wants to touch the magic of what's going on."
Stuart Ashton, the general manager and co-owner of McLean's Pub, a few blocks north of the arena, said he thinks the success of the Canadiens has helped encourage people who might have been wary of going out.
"As a Canadiens fan, it's been exciting. It's been so exciting, I can't even put it into words, I love it," he said in an interview Wednesday.
Canadiens Game Day: Miracle at Bell Centre as Habs win Game 3 in OT
Do you believe in miracles? We might have witnessed one at the Bell Centre Friday night when the Canadiens beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in overtime of Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Stanley Cup semifinal series. The Canadiens had no business winning this game — but they did. The Canadiens are now 4-0 in overtime in the playoffs this year and are two wins away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup final since 1993 when they won their last championship. They won 10 straight OT games that year. Friday night’s game never even should have made it to OT.
Ashton said his business has recovered quickly from losses suffered during the COVID-19 lockdowns because of the Habs.
"With the Canadiens, it's gone from zero to 100, it's amazing," he said.
The pub is not taking reservations because it doesn't want to hold empty tables with a lineup out the door, he said.
Ashton said he expected patrons to start lining up at 4 p.m. on Thursday, which is also Quebec's Fête nationale holiday. And while he assumes business will be strong for game day, he said he worries celebrations may get out of control.
Santana Enrique, manager of Sports Crescent, a sporting goods store on Ste-Catherine Street in downtown Montreal, said if the Canadiens win on Fête nationale, it will be like a "two-for-one" present for Montrealers.
"With what the Canadiens are doing, we forget completely about the pandemic, about the lockdown, the curfew, we forget completely, we are living another life," he said as he folded t-shirts with the name of one of the Canadiens newest stars, Nick Suzuki, on the back.
With many young players coming to prominence during the playoffs, Enrique said fans are buying shirts bearing those new names.
Still, he said, items of clothing with the name and number of veteran goaltender Carey Price remain the bestsellers.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
Canadiens Game Day: Habs make lineup changes for Game 4 of Cup final .
With the Canadiens facing elimination, head coach Dominique Ducharme will make some lineup changes for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final against the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday at the Bell Centre (8 p.m., CBC, SN, NBC, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). Centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi will be a healthy scratch with Jake Evans taking his spot, while defencemen Alexander Romanov and Brett Kulak will be in the lineup replacing Erik Gustafsson and Jon Merrill on the third pairing. Ducharme will move Tyler Toffoli into Artturi Lehkonen’s spot at left wing on a line with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher, while Evans will be at centre between Paul Byron and Lehkonen.