There’s no Canada like French Canada. It’s the best Canada in the land…
Gatineau/Quebec City, QC It is practically December, and little hope remains for NHL hockey this season, and I’m kind of OK with that. This current work stoppage is so ridiculous that it HAS to be a conspiracy. Is the League trying to relocate critical clubs by blaming the aftermath of another Lockout? Is there some sort of undetectable performance enhancing drug that they have in the works? Are they trying to make Euro NHL a reality by forcing players to seek work across the pond, and, thus, providing the locals with a sample of what could be? Who knows? But believing even the most outlandish conspiracy theories actually makes more sense than what the truth appears to be. The NHL has really done it this time. I can’t wait to see how many fans they lose this time around. I for one have vowed that I will not pay for an NHL game or merchandise for the remainder of the 2012-13 season (at least). Even if there is NHL hockey come December 15, I won’t be investing my money in it. I haven’t decided what my scruples will be regarding free tickets, but we shall see if/when the season actually gets off the ground, of course.
Speaking of being locked out, I have continued my exploration of new hockey arenas despite the fact that the NHL can’t be a part of it. I had high hopes of making Arena #60 a memorable one, and I was planning to give that honour to the MTS Centre and the Winnipeg Jets. Alas, this could not be, so I tried to find another way to do something different for the big 6-0, and decided that exploring a new league was the only way to celebrate my 60th with style. Naturally, I turned my attention to the neighbouring Canadian Hockey League feeder, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
It seems crazy that I waited so long to head to the QMJHL since teams like the Gatineau Olympiques are located mere minutes away from the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL in their temporary home at Scotiabank Place. The home of the Olympiques was definitely not as spiffy as an NHL barn, and it is definitely in need of a makeover. That being said Arena Robert Guertin has the best arena poutine I’ve ever had! It’s crazy how you cross that bridge from Ottawa into Quebec, and the poutine is just instantly superior! It is also interesting that once you drive over that bridge that everything is immediately in French! I don’t know, maybe I was expecting Gatineau to be a transitional zone, but I was definitely wrong. The thing I found most amusing was that they knew by looking at me that I was an Anglophone. I remember going up to the bar for my usual in-game Caesar, and before I even said anything, the bartender just immediately switched to English. It’s like I never left the Asia League! Of course, the deeper you go into Quebec, the less English you encounter, and little did I know when I scheduled my appearance in Gatineau for the Olympiques tilt with the Foreurs, that I would be taking a trip to beautiful Quebec City a couple weeks later while the Remparts were hosting the Sherbrooke Phoenix.
10 hours from Toronto (I made bad time due to not being alone on this road trip) at the Colisee Pepsi, English just was not a factor in the game day experience. At first I thought this was odd. I mean, all you NHL fans know that in both Montreal and Ottawa they make all their announcements in both French and English. Hell, they even did that at the Olympiques game, and even in the Asia League despite the fact that maybe 4 players spoke English, and even fewer people in the crowd did! Like I said, I thought that was interesting, but then I realized that we don’t make announcements in French at the Air Canada Centre, not even when the Habs are in town, so I guess it’s only fair! Plus it’s not really a problem for me, I just have to pay more attention to the announcements than I’d like to.
Anyway, Colisee Pepsi was the former home of the Quebec Nordiques, so it seats more than 15,000 fans, and apparently still occasionally sells out despite the fact that the NHL moved out Colorado, and junior hockey moved in. While I was there the crowd was nearly 11,000, which is MASSIVE for junior hockey, especially for an everyday regulation game, as opposed to say, the Mem Cup, or the World Juniors. To me, this was just proof that Quebec City should probably be at the top of the list for NHL relocation or expansion. The OHL clubs in the Greater Toronto Area don’t draw crowds like this, even Brampton has decided to throw in the towel and move to North Bay due to lack of interest! Of course, one would have to wonder if the Remparts would suffer the same fate if the Nords did move back in! Either way, work is already being done on the new, bigger, and better arena in Quebec right next door to the old Colisee, so it will be interesting to see what happens with all of that.
As for the game day experience in Quebec City, it was AWESOME. Both the crowd and the arena were big, so I actually felt like I was at an NHL game for the first time this season, and that includes the AHL game I was at last month! The only thing that brought me back to reality was that I was being perved all over by little boy hockey players born in 1995! Creepy, but at the same time… Yeah, that’s right! Another win for my 17 year old disguise!
Of course, my main objective on this trip was to be the perv and do said perving all over Remparts’ GM and Head Coach, Patrick Roy, who was celebrating his 500th game as Coach DILF of the club, or at least that’s what I think was going on due to the fact that everything was in French. He seemed to find this emotional, and Mama liked that. You know how I feel about both coaches AND goalies! Ohh, baby! Unfortunately, it seems as though QMJHL security must have been tipped off to my coming, and my seat was all the way across the ice from the bench, so my creepy plans were foiled once again!
Sadly, the Remparts absolutely spanked Phoenix with a 6-0 shutout! I was really curious to see how the fans in Quebec City handled a losing situation. Back in Gatineau, the fans got visibly annoyed in the third period and began screaming at the boys in English as opposed to French. Once again, it’s probably the Linguistic Anthropology Major in me, but I found this both amusing and intriguing, and was curious if the same thing would happen the deeper into Quebec that I went. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be mad when your team is taking care of business so effectively, so I guess I’ll have to wait until my next QMJHL game to test this theory, whenever that will be. As of right now I’m craving an AHL game, so that will probably be my next ticket, although part of me feels guilty supporting the AHL during the Lockout due to their affiliation with the NHL. I think I’ll have to give it a little more thought. See you at the next one!
Top Photo: Colisee Pepsi decorated for the holidays!