Well, the circus came to town and I’ve got a free pass. I wear it around my neck and it came with a gift bag so my Mom gets a new pair of mittens and my son gets some fur-lined headgear. I get to keep the bag.
What was the parking lot across the street last week now sports a large tent that houses part of the Lay’s NHL All-Star Jamboree. The Jamboree, which also fills a second tent in the courtyard across from the Bell Centre and spills into Windsor Station, formerly a train depot features interactive games, both on-screen and real-life, autograph booths remote broadcast locations, every significant NHL trophy, memorabilia from previous All-Star encounters and a variety of other entertainments promises to be jam-packed for the next three days.
Banners have been unfurled that do not celebrate either the Habs or the team’s centennial, one of the main reasons the All-Star Weekend is taking place in Montreal. While gigantic images of Alex Kovalev and Carey Price look down from the walls of the Bell Centre, Sidney Crosby, or all we’ll see of him this weekend, gazes down from another and Patrick Kane’s effigy takes up an entire city block along Ste-Catherine Street.
The Fairmount Queen Elizabeth Hotel, host hostelry for the weekend’s festivities, has been done up in the red, white and blue color scheme that, with a nod to the host club, will be the same hues worn by the makeshift teams that are going to send a few unlicensed ticket merchants south to recover from our recent cold snap.
The rookies and sophomores were made available to the already considerable media contingent this afternoon, some of the teenagers remarkably at ease and articulate. Tomorrow it’s the grown-ups’ turn.
I learned something new today – always check before shaking hands with a hockey player. Big Georges Laraque, the Habs sidelined heavyweight, was wandering through the hotel lobby and so, deciding to say hello, introduced myself and stuck out my hand, not noticing until we were well into the grasp that BGL was wearing a prosthetic device of some sort on his right hand. I’m pretty sure I didn’t retard his return though.
I also learned that Canadiens president, Pierre Boivin was a traditionalist when it came to winter footwear. Before leaving the Jamboree site after a radio interview he bent down and pulled a pair of rubbers over his shoes.
There was a time when all Montreal men wore the black stretchy things in the wintertime. More than a few went home without them from Habs games at the Forum, having thrown their rubbers on the ice to signal disdain or disgust for a referee’s decision. Salaries in the days of black and white broadcasts not being what they are today, even in relative terms, Forum cleaning crews were often asked by players to try to match up a pair in their size.
Tomorrow’s shaping up to be a busy day. I hope to finally meet Willie O’Ree face-to-face and a west-coast team expects me to speak with their captain. And then there are the three cocktail parties.