Gregory Katz The Hockey Writers
What Missing the Playoffs Means to Montreal
Every City Has Its ‘Thing’ – Montreal Has the Habs
New York has the Statue of Liberty, Toronto has the CN Tower, Las Vegas has the famous strip, and Montreal has the Montreal Canadiens. The Montreal Canadiens are one of the amazing things that define Montreal, and that define Quebec as a whole. The city has the richest hockey history in the world, and a unique hockey culture. Montreal is the true, undisputed centre of the hockey universe. Fans around the city bleed bleu-blanc-rouge – as they stick with their team through good and bad. The atmosphere on game night cannot be beat, especially in the playoffs. Alas, as March approaches, the beloved Habs find themselves outside of the playoff picture in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. This article will look at the impact that the Canadiens potentially missing the playoffs will have on the city as a whole.
Around playoff time in Montreal, its hard not to be a Habs fan. Fans and local businesses show their support by putting flags out wherever they can, while Canadiens car flags are sold by the thousands. Even certain Montreal busses show their support by changing the animated text on the bus screen to “Go Canadiens Go”. The atmosphere is intense, as Canadiens fans truly care about their team. Unfortunately, due to the team’s recent struggles, that wonderful excitement may not be felt in Montreal. The Habs not making the playoffs has legitimate consequences on the city, as more than just the hockey community is affected.
The Business Side of Things
The Montreal downtown core is directly affected by the team not participating in the playoffs. Many retailers, restaurants, bars, and even hotels lose business due to the lack of buzz around the Bell Centre. Before home playoff games, the Bell Centre hosts a number of fan events like a FanJam – where Habs faithful can gather and get hyped up for the big game. Events like this allow the area surrounding the arena to welcome big crowds of passionate fans. FanJam has become so popular, that some fans go to the event even if they’re not planning on attending games. People often grab dinner or a drink before or after games, and the downtown core of the city becomes more alive and energized than any other time of the year. When the Canadiens don’t make the playoffs, the otherwise booming area becomes quieter, as fans don’t gather to show their support.
Check out this video depicting the FanJam festivities before home playoff games.
Montreal businesses aren’t the only ones to suffer due to the lack of buzz and lack of tourism that the playoffs consistently bring in. Other than businesses, the Canadiens organization obviously loses out on ticket, merchandise, and concessions sales. One could even say that the playoffs are good for the local economy, and that there is a noticeable drop-off if the team doesn’t qualify. Unfortunately, the playoffs are an unrealistic goal for the team that has been searching for Stanley Cup number 25 for over 20 years.
The fond memories that Habs fans have of strangers gathering together, wearing Canadiens jerseys, and having a common interest won’t be reignited this year. There won’t be any cheering, high-fiving, and enthusiasm between very different people who are brought together by a love for their city and the team representing it. Habs fans try to ignore their team – they promise that they won’t watch any more games, but on game night, they just so happen to tune in. The Montreal hockey market is passionate and loyal, and they deserve better than what they have gotten this year. They deserve to be able to high-five strangers, they deserve to be able to walk the streets with their jerseys on and have cars honk with excitement over the most recent win, and they deserve to experience the playoff atmosphere that is created in the city that loves its hockey so much.
Don't think Geoff Molson is indifferent to this debacle. #Habs failing to make playoffs will cost his organization millions
— Dave Stubbs (@Dave_Stubbs) February 18, 2016
Habs Fans, Along With Canadian Hockey Fans Lose Out
Some may argue that Canada as a whole suffers from Montreal not making the playoffs. For the last few seasons, the Canadiens have been Canada’s best team. While other Canadian teams are amidst rebuilds (Toronto and Edmonton), the Habs seemed to be the consistent Canadian team that would represent their country in the playoffs. This year, with the Habs not playing their best hockey, Canada likely won’t be represented in the post-season. The country that is most passionate about the game won’t have a chance to cheer their teams, or their country on in playoff action.
Unfortunately, Habs fans, and Canadian hockey fans as a whole won’t be getting what they deserve this year. The Montreal Canadiens have disappointed their fans, their management, and most of all – their city. It has been established that the entire city – from businesses to fans – benefit from the Habs making the playoffs. Now, instead of hearing the ‘Go Habs Go’ cheers in the streets, we may start hearing ‘Tank Habs Tank’. Montreal hockey fans should look forward to a better season next year, where they should hope that at the very least, Canada will be represented in the playoffs.
A formal letter to the Montreal Canadiens organization:
For the benefit of your city, your fans, and your entire country – please make the playoffs in 2017.
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