Montrealers are passionate practitioners of, well, everything. It explains why we’re just as passionate when it comes to our support for professional sports, in particular those high-level competitors – like the Montreal Canadiens, the Alouettes and the Impact – who play for the pride of the city. The following is your primer for what’s shaping up to be a sports-action-packed 2016.
Normally at this time of the year, the prospect of the impending National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs would see the excitement levels of Montrealers switching from simmer to slow boil. Alas, barring a miracle, Montreal Canadiens fans (i.e., pretty much everybody) will have to content themselves watching all the playoff action minus their beloved Habs.
Though it was a season beset by injuries – including but not limited to franchise goaltender Carey Price – and unlucky bounces, it was, as always, far from boring down at the Bell Centre, and the club’s future prospects are encouraging. A few things to look forward to going into next season (which begins the first week of October): management seems intent on keeping the core players intact, there is a raft of top-tier farm team talent making its way up, and Price (fingers and toes crossed) should be healthy.
Montréal’s Major League Soccer (MLS) team the Impact are also battling injuries to start their season (to captain Patrice Bernier and star striker Didier Drogba), but these are likely blips on the road to what could potentially be another breakout season for the team. Last year the energy was electric as the Impact went to the semifinals at the CONCACAF Champions League tournament, drawing upwards of 40,000 Montréal soccer fans per match. Already, tens of thousands of tickets have been sold to their home opening match against the New York Red Bulls, March 12, at the Olympic Stadium. The team moves to their adjacent outdoor Saputo Stadium field on April 23 to face MLS rivals Toronto FC.
Football-mad Montrealers are gearing up to watch their Alouettes take another run at the Grey Cup from their primo seats in the scenic Percival-Molson Stadium, a diamond set on the southern slope of Mount Royal overlooking downtown Montréal. And what a run it should be. A flurry of key off-season signings – including veteran QB Kevin Glenn and star receiver Duron Carter, as well as the resigning of formidable linebacker Winston Venable – contribute to an encouraging combo of youthful up-and-comers and seasoned veterans. Their first pre-season home game goes against the Toronto Argonauts on June 17, and the regular season home opener sees the Als taking on Hamilton, July 15.
The city’s many baseball fans will once again demonstrate that “America’s national pastime” is also Montréal’s when rival Major League Baseball franchises the Boston Red Sox take on the Toronto Blue Jays for a pre-season matchup at Olympic Stadium on April 1. Yet again, the stadium will be packed with the baseball crazy and, yet again, a strong case will be made for the return of “Nos Amours” (Montréal-speak for the Expos).
Tennis Canada, who oversee both professional Rogers Cup tennis tournaments in Canada (Toronto and Montréal), turns an almost unbelievable 125 years old this year. And they haven’t lost any of their game – quite the contrary. In 2014, the last time the women’s Cup was in Montréal, a new world attendance record was set for a one-week women’s tournament. The women return to Uniprix Stadium this year (and the men go to Toronto) from July 22-31, and anticipated players include Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki and Montréal hometown favourite Eugenie Bouchard, as well as past champions Ana Ivanovic, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska.
And lastly, is it too early to start getting excited about some of the best hockey that takes to the ice every year? The short answer is, of course, no. Though the IIHF World Junior Championship tournament doesn’t begin in earnest until its traditional Boxing Day start, it definitely wouldn’t be too early to start thinking about grabbing tickets now. One of the highlights of the hockey year, the World Juniors return to Montréal (19 games, including the gold medal game, all at the Bell Centre) and Toronto (13 games) from December 26, 2016 until January 5, 2017.
Up next: Top 10 places to watch habs games
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