The tickets are something special, just a couple of rows back from the glass and a couple of seats over from the Canadiens bench. For the majority of fans, getting this close to the action is a lifetime dream unlikely to be realized and that's unfortunate.
Every true fan
Is the view that good?...You better believe it!
As good as HD TV is, the colours are more brilliant and vibrant.
From up close, the game takes on a dimension that's hard to describe. The experience is so intense that when the game is close, you actually leave the building at the end of the game feeling drained.
Being so near the ice makes it harder to follow the overall play, but that's fine.
Your eyes flit around involuntarily, attracted to one thing or another, there's just so much to take in. When the play heats up in front of you, it's not unusual to actually hold your breath!
Unlike television, you make up your own experience. You follow individual players, study their faces and watch their mannerisms. You are, in essence, your very own isolated camera - up close and personal.
I once spent a whole period watching a referee and came away with a real appreciation of the effort they put in. I also realized that concentrate as they do, it's inevitable that they miss things.
You also notice unimportant things, idiosyncrasies like Alexander Ovechkin's yellow skate laces or the ragged and well worn hockey gloves or skates worn by a variety of players, especially the goalies.
You appreciate first hand, the skill, desperation, effort, confidence and sometimes fear and panic displayed on the faces of the players. Down there, everything is more real, desperate and less confident.
No television camera can afford such an experience.
Because I attend a lot of games, I've been horribly spoiled, it's a bit of a shame and I've deliberately cut back my attendance to keep the experience fresh.
Over the years many people have enjoyed my tickets, which are mostly given away as business perks, although I reserve some for myself, family and friends.
The reactions of those who I've given these tickets to is always fabulous, especially among first-timers.
A while back, my wife made a rare request for tickets for someone she hardly knew. She runs an accounting department and speaks by phone on a daily basis with counterparts in other companies.
She'd gotten to know some of these people fairly well and although she's never actually met many in person, she's formed some important connections and spends some time exchanging personal stories and gossip, all on the phone.
She asked me for a set of Habs tickets for one such acquaintance, a Mr. X. who works for a large supplier.
A couple of months previous, he confessed to her that his twenty-something son was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. Over the months, she acted as a confident and talked him through some rough patches. After Mr.X had taken his family to Europe for a 'last' family vacation, things got progressively worse.
Trying to cheer up Mr. X, she asked him if his son enjoyed hockey (duh!) and if he'd like to take him to see the Canadiens play, up close and personal.
"Yes, absolutely, thank you!"
They went to the game and it must have been quite an experience, she received a very nice note from the boy.
A couple of weeks later Mr. X phoned and sheepishly asked if he could purchase a set of tickets from her, as he wanted to repeat the experience. He described the trip to the Bell Centre as a magical, one in which he and his son left their problems behind for a couple of hours.
It was our pleasure to send another set of complimentary tickets and again we were happy to hear that the evening went well, considering the son's deteriorating condition.
Not long after, later my wife got another call from Mr. X, sadly announcing the death of his beloved son.
He told her that he was phoning her from his son's bedroom and was thinking of her because he was looking at the ticket stubs that his son had tacked up on his bulletin board as a reminder of the wonderful trips to the Bell Centre.
At the funeral home, my wife and I met Mr. X for the first time. Although they had talked for months, they didn't recognize each other.
It was quite moving. They embraced and he told her how much the hockey games meant to his family and how he'd never forget those happy hours that he'd spent with his son at the Bell Centre.
I can tell you that that in all my years of giving out tickets, nothing approached the level of satisfaction of having brought a measure happiness to a father and son facing the ultimate sad separation.
It got me thinking....
The average hockey season provides for about forty-five home games.
What if every season ticket holder committed to give just one set away to some worthy soul?
One set out of 45, it's not that big a deal.
It would mean that every year, 25 to 30 thousand people would get to enjoy, what we season ticket holders take for granted, a very special evening.
I know that the Montreal Canadiens organization does a lot for the community and donates tickets on their own. In fact, players across the league (like Alex Kovalev) pay for private loges and invite underprivileged children to attend games as a personal treat.
What if the Habs were to start a service where season ticket holders could contribute back one or two sets of their tickets and the team accepts responsibility for distributing them to worthy candidates, perhaps through their foundation.
It would be magical!
I'd definitely be the first in line to contribute.