By the Book

Usually this column has me talking about a sports issue either at Concordia or in professional sports, but this week I’m going to switch it up. I’m going to talk about myself.

This past Tuesday I had the chance to watch the Canadiens face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning from the press box at the Bell Centre, and in short, it was like a dream. As I was walking into the media entrance at 4:30 in the afternoon on game day, there was a crowd of autograph seekers, as the media entrance is right beside the players’ entrance, and the Lightning’s bus had just arrived. Walking beside me as I entered was reigning Art Ross and Hart trophy winner Martin St. Louis. Trying not to seem intimidated, I looked at him and said hi, he returned it with a hello back.

Once I got my media pass, I proceeded to the Jacques-Beauchamp Press Lounge on the seventh floor, where, when I walked in, I was immediately surrounded by a who’s who of Montreal journalists. From Jacques Demers and Pierre Houde from RDS to Jack Todd and Red Fisher from The Gazette. I felt like I didn’t belong, even though I was there as a working journalist. The press lounge was a very, very nice place, set-up with several televisions playing RDS and the NHL network. As the game approached, all the televisions were switched to coverage of the game. Of course, the lounge was stocked with food, and lots of it, adding to its prestige. At around 6:30, as the doors were opening, I decided to get up to the press box to take my seat. I started reading the press material given by the Canadiens, and researching a little bit more for my upcoming interview with a player on the Canadiens for a future story in The Concordian. I also got word that Brian Eklund, Canadiens’ goaltender Yann Danis’ teammate at Brown University, was making his first NHL appearance in goal for the Lightning.

As warm-ups were about to start, the press box started to fill up, with everyone looking to see who was playing and who wasn’t. I was sitting with the visiting press, near a reporter from the Associated Press and others from the Florida papers such as the St. Pete Times. When the players came onto the ice, instead of just watching warm-up, I found myself comparing the lineup sheet to the players on the ice. After warm-up, I watched one of the televisions in the press box that was tuned to RDS.

Finally, the game was about to start. As they air the pre-game movie that precedes all Canadiens home games, someone goes around the press box handing a sheet of paper. The sheet includes starting lineups for both teams as well as the scratches. The view from the corner of the press box, where I was seated, was unbelievable. Compared to views from the seats in the upper bowl of the Bell Centre, it was astounding. Nothing obstructing your view, and whenever the Canadiens scored, you could see the sea of fans start to stand and cheer. It was an indescribable sight.

Between periods, most of the reporters headed back to the lounge, and when we returned to our seats, I was surprised to see two papers. One had all of the out-of-town scores and the other had all of the stats from the Canadiens-Tampa Bay game, including penalties, shots on goal and ice time for all players. It was heaven on Earth for a stats hound such as myself.

After the game, it was time to go to the locker room. Having no clue where to go, I followed Pat Hickey to the elevator and eventually to the Habs locker room. When I went inside, the entire team was there and I conducted the interview. I walked by Saku Koivu and Craig Rivet on my way out of the famous dressing room and on my way to find the Lightning dressing room. When I got there, everyone was waiting for Eklund, St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. They all left as soon as they were done their television interviews and then we waited for Lightning coach John Tortorella to speak to the media. After that interview, my job was done.

I was a little upset about not getting an interview with St. Louis, but from start to finish, it was an experience I won’t soon forget.

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